Done with Dystopias

As I mentioned recently, I am tired of dystopian novels in young adult fiction.

Last week, when I checked out several books from the library, I picked up two that I thought might fit that category, but I wasn’t sure, so I got them anyway.  The first one I started to read, The Testing by Joelle Charbanneau was definitely a dystopia.  It may be a very good book, but I just couldn’t do it again.  Give me six months off from that genre, and maybe I’ll like them again.  But not now.

The second book was Earth Girl by Janet Edwards.  A few pages in, I almost gave up, but something made me stick with it, and I’m glad I did.  It actually is not a dystopia!  Hooray!  It is a futuristic science fiction young adult novel, but it did not have the same vibe of fighting against a governmental system.

Jarra is an 18-year-old girl who is one in a thousand born with an immune disorder that will not allow her to survive in any planet’s atmosphere except the Earth’s.  And since dozens of planets have been colonized, this is quite a hindrance.  Those with this handicap are looked down upon by others, called “apes” or “throwbacks” due to their condition.  Parents who give birth to a handicapped child on another planet often abandon the child to be raised on earth in a sort of cross between boarding school and foster care.  The future for these children is limited as they can study only in Earth universities and have jobs only on Earth.  Jarra’s bitterness about her situation drives her to take an unusual step: she applies to a university on another planet whose first courses take place on Earth.  She hides what she is in order to show the others that someone who is Handicapped is not less human; once they know her, she plans to throw the truth in their faces.  But the longer she works and learns with the “norms,” the more she learns about them and herself.

The story is filled with both external and internal conflict.  The science fiction is interesting and exciting.  There is one part of the book that seemed a bit unbelievable to me (it covers a few chapters toward the end), but it serves a specific purpose, so while I didn’t love it, I could forgive it.

I just found out that this book is first in a trilogy (and that there is a short story prequel), but the book works very well as a stand-alone.  I think both boys and girls would enjoy this one.


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