I rarely receive unexpected YA book mail, because usually I get a new read in the post on the back of an email rounding up upcoming releases from which I let the published know which titles listed I'd like to review. This is the case with Hot Key Books as well, so I was super surprised with The Girl From Everywhere popped into my mailbox completely out of the blue and cheering up my desk instantly with its stunning cover and the colourful lei that came with it. Even more so, because I hadn't heard of the novel yet, so I had no idea what I was in for when I dived in. And what an utter treat this swashbuckling time travel adventure ended up being.
Nix Song is sixteen years old and she's a time traveller. She lives aboard the ship the Temptation with her father Slate, who is the captain, and an assorted crew of people they've picked up on their travels. Nix's original time is 19th century Hawaii, yet her father's is 20th century New York. On his travels he fell in love with a woman in Hawaii in the 19th century and that's the time this story focuses on, because Slate is desperate to return to when Nix's mother was still alive. She died while giving birth to Nix and Slate wasn't there when it happened.
There is a catch, however. He cannot just navigate to any place and any time he pleases, instead he needs to find a map from the time and location he wants to travel to – it has to be an original and one he hasn't used before. Maps of 1868 Hawaii are hard to come by and Slate and the crew of the Temptation travel through time and even to mythical places to try and find the one map that will bring him back to his one true love. Nix's heart isn't in the search though. Not only does she feel neglected by her father, who in his single-minded obsession doesn't have the time to be a proper parent to his only daughter, but she also wonders what finding the map would mean for her. After all, if they return to a time where she was not yet born, would this version of her cease to exist?
Wow, this book was absolutely fantastic! It was truly unique and imaginative, and the clever way in which author Heidi Heilig brought together different times and places, some even mythological, was simply incredibly. Not since reading Claudia Gray's Firebird series have I been so astonished by the beautifully intricate world-building of a book. Not only is the story very, very clever and the plot put together exceptionally well, but the main characters were also fantastically written. Nix was a kick-ass heroine yet she wasn't made to be perfect in any way; she had flaws and made mistakes, but they added to her feeling completely realistic and I started to really get emotionally involved in her journey throughout.
And the novel is filled with maps! Not only is the story doused in Slate's feverish obsession for maps, but The Girl From Everywhere itself is filled with drawings of different locations depicted in different eras. Maps within books always add an extra dimension to a story and never more so than in this one. With each new drawing I felt myself being transported to another place and another time, following Nix and the crew of the Temptation on their adventures to places familiar to myself and others I've only ever experienced from within the pages of a book. The clever writing created an endless number of possible destinations, ensuring that the novel never became predictable and instead left me completely hooked and on the edge of my seat throughout.
The Girl From Everywhere is a complex, intricate and oh so very clever story of swashbuckling time travelers and discovering what – and who – is really important in life. It's not like any other young adult novel I've read, or any book really, and its complete uniqueness really added to its appeal. While it got lost in its own mythology once or twice, I was captured from the very first page and enthralled by the fascinating developments throughout. This novel is highly imaginative and endlessly engrossing, and it is a must-read for anyone who loves mythological adventures, time travelling pirates, or simply a story of a girl navigating the choppy waters of growing up.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Girl From Everywhere is published by Hot Key Books and you can buy a copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
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