2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. Eighteen-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can't travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She's an "ape," a "throwback," but this is one ape girl who won't give in.
Jarra makes up a fake military background for herself and joins a class of norms who are on Earth for a year of practical history studies excavating the dangerous ruins of the old cities. She wants to see their faces when they find out they've been fooled into thinking an ape girl was a norm. She isn't expecting to make friends with the enemy, to risk her life to save norms, or to fall in love.
This was an incredibly well crafted book based in the future with a really gorgeous premise.
In this futuristic world, many other solar systems have been colonized with various planets within them harbouring life, usually on just one continent. People use portals to get to these, and are charged for portal use. When the first other planet was colonized, many people left Earth in a hurry, and due to a data failure later, much of Earth's history was lost. As such, a lot of this book takes place on a dig site in New York City.
It was so fascinating seeing an optimistic future for Earth--so many of the dystopias I read involve some government or corporation taking over to save humanity from its own destruction--and to see them looking back at the world today. Seeing the way they discovered "ancient" artifacts was a lot of fun.
I did want to see more of the world, though. There's a strong military presence, but no talk of any government. There were some phrases that took me a while to understand (Twoing?!) and while I appreciate not having my hand held, sometimes I was just plain confused. The differences between various systems were intriguing though, and I'd have loved to see how today's Earth evolved into this world.
This had some very poignant moments. They refer to the twentieth century as "war, war, and bore" but Jarra talks about how those wars feel so distant yet two people killed in a more recent mission can feel so much more powerful and horrible. The tensions she envisioned between apes and exos and the way these were in reality were lovely social commentary.
At times, Jarra felt annoyingly perfect. She can do everything, and if she can't, she has a plan for how to figure out how to do it. I don't know how her class didn't get envious, but there were definitely times where I wanted her to fail out of petty frustration at her perfection. Even the history she made up turned out to be annoyingly perfect, and no one became suspicious about it. And Fian was boring.
There was a section near the end that didn't make sense to me. It used psychology kind of as an excuse to solve a few problems and advance the plot, but the psychology used wasn't believable, and really confused me. I thought Edwards really could have done better, and this was the one section that really pulled me out.
My library doesn't have the other two books. I am cry. But I really loved that this stands alone, and I'm not absolutely dying because I don't know what happens. Many kudos to the author for that; I've had too many cliffhangers lately!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, too, and I was completely drawn into the world Edwards created.