The Girl From Everywhere is everything and nothing like I expected it to be. Time-travelling pirate ship? Check. Sexy Persian man? Check. Tiny pocket dragon? Check. Spies, intrigue, and theft? Check. This beautifully written story very neatly tied together history and mythology while a spunky female character narrated. Yet, as we can discover with time travel, it’s easy for the story to unravel.
Sometimes fate makes choices for us.
Growing up, I quickly learned that I adore time travel. I watched Back to the Future so many times we broke the VHS and I could still quote the entire movie. I would stay home sick and lay in my parent’s bedroom with my Mom watching Quantum Leap reruns forever. There is real drama in time travel. It’s so easy to accidentally break the world. The brilliant thing about The Girl From Everywhere is that the book more or less starts out with us being introduced to how very unstable time travel really can be.
Nix is the daughter of Slate, the captain of the time-traveling ship Temptation. The crew acquires maps which have been dated and hand-drawn, and then can travel to the place and time on the map. But, once they use the map, they can never return to that location ever again. Slate is searching for a map of Honolulu 1868, the year that Nix was born and her mother died– both events that Slate missed. He wants to go back and save his wife, but Nix is terrified that in doing so she will be erased from time. Desperate for a map, the crew arrives in Honolulu 1884 and is captured in a plot to overthrow the Hawai’ian government. Why does the crew of the Temptation get involved? Obviously, they have a map of Honolulu 1868…
It is not difficult to tell the future of a woman who only has a past.
What captured me the most about The Girl from Everywhere was how Heilig wrote the relationship between Slate and Nix. Father-daughter relationships are not frequently the focus of YA, particularly the semi-abusive and semi-neglectful kind we see here. Captain Slate and Nix’s relationship is complicated and tense. Nix frequently has confrontations with her father which left me anxious for her. They are very similar (for example, they both avoid their problems), yet complete opposites (Nix adores learning, Slate adores opium. Trust me, in this case, they are opposites). Growing up as the tool instrumental to helping her father achieve his ultimate goal, Nix is jaded. She has experienced little of the traditional father-daughter relationship and craves his attention. Watching both Nix and Slate grow throughout this novel is heart-wrenching. A love-hate relationship that goes both ways, is twisted and bitter, yet both just want to forgive the other. Amazing.
There are so many beautiful things about this story. The crew of the Temptation for one. Kashmir is a debonair thief, Rotgut is a food-loving runaway monk, and Bee is African lesbian who’s dead wife’s spirit follows her around playing at mischief. How can you not love that? Nix grew up with a passion for learning on a ship. She is constantly quoting literature, making allusions to great moments in history and mythology, and describes everything with a nautical twist. That last part I really love. It stuck out a lot to me at first, since I have little experience with boats, but by the end of the book I barely noticed it. I also adore Honolulu.
Jealousy is nothing but a fear of being abandoned.
Heilig was inspired to write this novel because she found a newspaper article about a group of pirates who plundered the town and royal treasury in 1884 without firing a single shot. She couldn’t find any additional details, so she made the story up herself. It’s obvious that Heilig adores her home of Ohau. The tenderness in her descriptions come through bursting with love. But we also get to experience an extreme turning point in Hawaiian history. As an American, I never studied the annexation of Hawaii, but it’s easy to find historical accounts of how the charm, culture, and experiences of an ingenious people were overrun by foreign influence, power, and the drug trade.
I adore the time-travel theory Heilig has developed. The concept that a penned, dated, accurate, and original map can take a Navigator to that exact location is brilliant. Not just that, but this is the world as the map-maker believes it to be. If the map-maker actually believes the mythos of a world, Slate can go there and live it. But, you use a map to Navigate you can never return with that map– you need a new one. Yet, this brilliant form of time travel unraveled a bit by the end for me.
Sometimes a person has to let go of something to take hold of something else.
Like most time-travel stories, there was confusion and there were plot holes. Now, this could just be my experience: I listened to this book via audiobook. Kim Mai Guest was an amazing narrator. I loved listening to her cadence and timbre. She provided each character a distinct voice, so if I missed an introduction to who was speaking, I knew immediately. That said if I missed a sentence or two at a critical juncture I was suddenly super confused (since this is time-travel, I should have paid closer attention). A few times I rewound, but it was hard to find the critical information I missed. Instead, I just kept going. In the end, I’m not certain if there really are plot holes or I just wasn’t attentive enough– but I was engaged enough in the characters, descriptions, and setting to let that go. (I let the plot go?! And I still enjoyed it?! Fascinating….) I wonder if I will reconsider this thought on a re-read?
Chance favors the prepared mind, and there’s no mind more prepared than yours.
November is also Indigenous Peoples month in the United States. While this isn’t a #OwnVoices author, it was great to read a book that addressed the native Hawaiian people even if it was briefly. Brendon at Gaming for Justice is featuring Native Hawaiian’s in literature this month. If you are interested in learning more, check out his blog!
In the end, reading The Girl From Everywhere was a really enjoyable experience. The characters, setting, and time travel theory all really resonated with me. While there are some pacing and plot concerns, that doesn’t mean I won’t recommend this book to people. You take a gamble sometimes with time travel, and I’m willing to risk it.
What do you think?
- Have you read The Girl From Everywhere? Did you enjoy the book?
- What do you think of time-travel stories? Do you ever struggle to follow them? Do you question their believability?
- Are you willing to let plot go for any reason? Character development? Relationships? Setting?