Book Reviews

[review] The Girl from Everywhere – Heidi Heilig

the girl from everywhere heidi heiligRelease Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: Hardcover
Source: e-ARC received from publisher

Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

Tell Me More: Sometimes you encounter a book that you recognize as a kindred spirit, a story that will draw you in and hold you close, even as it takes you on an adventure you never realized you wanted. The Girl From Everywhere was exactly that kind of novel for me.

Nix is a complicated and difficult character, a riveting and passionate young woman. She’s a teenager, in other words, set upon by more responsibility and grief than anyone should have to bear at that age. Her home is the pirate ship The Temptation, captained by her father as they travel through time in search of a map. Nix’s ability to read the maps they find along the way is what her father keeps her around for, and he makes no attempt to disguise his disinterest in his daughter. It’s the kind of treatment that draws out its own damaging response, and a story whose stakes are deeply personal.

Her only real friend on the ship is suave, kind Kashmir, and their relationship is so wonderfully drawn out throughout the novel. Should you hope for friendship between them, their banter will delight you. If romance is where you want them to head, there are enough charged moments scattered in the story to power your ship. But Nix is the centre of Heilig’s debut novel, and it’s her development from stubborn crew girl to self-sufficient pirate woman that is a joy to watch unfold.

It’s hard to explain the ways that I connected to Nix’s story without getting a little emotional. Here’s a character who struggles with a family history that she can’t escape, and that provides her with the opportunities she craves. Here’s a character who doubts herself and does incredible things anyway. Heilig has spoken about how Nix’s personality and outlook has been influenced by her interactions with her father Captain Slate, and we see how this relationship drives Nix towards independence. She doesn’t want to have to depend on him, and his unpredictable nature, for the rest of her life. Slate is bipolar, and Heilig has described how her own experiences being bipolar informed the character and his relationships. It’s a careful and nuanced choice by an author who understands the characters she crafts, and gives them the voice they need.

This part of Nix’s life is the hardest one for her to avoid. She does take a lot of pride in her identity as a hapa haole, and it was so refreshing to be able to read about a mixed-raced character in YA fiction. Her comfort flitting from country to country, and within several different historical periods, is such a pleasure to experience. Heilig populates her novel with a diverse cast of supporting characters that are just as fully formed and interesting as Nix, setting them against a Hawaii that reflects its multicultural history.

But as interesting as her characters, her settings, and her concept are, it’s Heilig’s writing that was the star of this novel for me. It’s easy to see how much Heilig loves history and myth in how she writes about them, balancing the emotional threads of the story with the background that gives them gravity. She paces secrets and revelations with care, always keeping Nix’s character development at the forefront. The result is a novel that will not only enchant readers, but keep them thinking about Nix and her adventures long after the last page.

heidi heiligAbout Heidi

Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their pet snake, whose wings will likely grow in any day now.

Add The Girl From Everywhere on Goodreads | Follow Heidi on Twitter @heidiheilig | Visit Heidi’s website

Order The Girl From Everywhere from Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

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