Review: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (3.5/5 Stars)

alt='IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black background with the image of water in the middle and a ship with orange sails on the wave. A girl's eyes can be seen in the water. The words "The Girl From Everywhere" are superimposed on the left side of the cover. The subheader is "She is myth. She is history. She is gone." The author's name is written in red text at the bottom.'Title: The Girl From Everywhere

Author: Heidi Heilig

Age Range/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Diversity: Biracial MC, bipolar side character

CONTENT WARNING: Emotional abuse

Stars: 3.5/5

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.

The World

Oh gosh, guys, Heilig has created such a wonderful premise here, I truly hope this becomes a series because I don’t think it could ever get old. It’s such a neat take on time travel that the Doctor Who fan in me is wondering how we can slip this into the Whoniverse!

Nix lives on a ship that can, via a vaguely magical power of its captain, sail onto any map as long as they believe in it. It’s a refreshing idea that takes us on a few different breathtaking locations. I especially fell in love with Nix’s extended stay in Hawaii. As she explores the island, Heilig’s descriptive style brings the whole island to life around you.

Honestly, I’d read this just for the map destinations. Please please please tell me we’ll eventually get novellas exploring all the different places merely referenced in the book!

Characters

Nix is a fun protagonist. She is extremely competent and capable but still has a lot to learn and she seems to take a wide-eyed wonder to the places she visits. I can definitely identify with her and root for her very easily. I could have used a little more development of her character–what are her hobbies? Why is she so enamored with Kashmir even though she clearly finds his stealing distasteful?

Still, she’s a protagonist who could easily carry a whole series of books and I wish the best to the author in this regard.

The crew of the Temptation are as varied as you might expect any crew assembled from various bits of the world–and a couple of fairytales–to be. I would love to read a dozen novellas just detailing their adventures together (as long as Slate isn’t in them, but I’ll get to that).

The villains are a little two-dimensional but the main conflict isn’t actually with them, so it’s forgivable. Blake Hart, a young man Nix meets on the island, is ridiculously charming and I really loved the scenes of the two of them hanging out.

I also liked that the romance element in this book is not very strong. There’s a lot going on in Nix’s life and, although it does have a bit of that mandatory love triangle, it’s not stifling.

Hey, Slate is bipolar! Yay for bipolar rep! Not so yay for really negative bipolar rep…

My thoughts on this coupled with my thoughts on him as an emotional abuser are complicated and not happy. Instead, here is an interview Heilig did with Disability in Kidlit talking about the decisions that went into Slate’s character and story arc.

What I Disliked

Content warning for emotional abuse. Skip to “In Summation” if needed.

Let’s talk about Slate. He’s an emotional abuser.

When I say this, I’m talking as someone who as experienced this kind of abuse (not parent to child) first hand. No, I’m not going to talk about my experience. Just know that this doesn’t come out of nowhere. It was hard to finish this book because of this character.

I don’t think Slate was intentionally written this way. Why? Because it’s never addressed in the story. No one calls him on it, no one encourages Nix to escape or helps her do so. Although Slate’s behavior is acknowledged as awful, it is never recognized openly as abusive.

This abusive nature is separate and distinct from his bipolar disorder. He is not abusive BECAUSE he has bipolar–I know that will be hard for a lot of people to separate out so I want to make it clear here. I’m intimately familiar with both bipolar AND emotional abuse. In this story, they overlap but one does not cause the other.

But let’s run through the signs (mild spoilers ahead):

  • He consistently puts his needs above his daughter’s, viewing her more as a means to an end than a person for most of the book.
    • He is so fixated on his own needs/addiction that he can hardly even relate to Nix outside of his own pain.
  • Despite Navigation being exactly as obvious as you might expect, Slate controls Nix’s ability to develop her skill or learn how to do it until he needs it
    • This means she’s dependent on him to remain at sea traveling through time. Without him, she’s stuck and it’s well established that’s the last thing she wants to be.
  • Slate privately threatens another crew member to manipulate Nix into doing what he wants, even when the acts violate her moral code.
  • The shining crown on this pile of shit might just be how Slate is willing to risk his daughter’s life to get back to his wife. As it says in the description, helping Slate may cost Nix her very existence.
    • When she points out this not insignificant detail, he gaslights her, reasoning she would be happier this way.
    • This makes more sense when you realize Nix is not actually important to Slate as a person until the end, when he’s “learned his lesson”

The cherry on top is that Nix is so accustomed to this abuse that she helps him however she can in this quest. Despite being aware of the danger to herself, she agrees to do things she really doesn’t want to do at every turn even as she’s hoping everything will fail.

When I say the emotional abuse is distinct from the bipolar disorder, I mean that, as part of having bipolar, Slate will have periods of normalcy. His mood will be neither extremely elevated nor extremely depressed. We see a few of these periods, and he still manipulates Nix in some of the ways I’ve described above.

Mostly, I am so heartbroken for Nix that she grew up with a father who always put a long lost wife above her and I am angry with the abuse and neglect heaped upon Nix as a result.

*takes a deep breath*

Look, in spite of it’s flaws, this is a really cool book. I hope it’s made into a movie someday because it would be awesome on the big screen and maybe they’ll change Slate to something I can tolerate. THE GIRL FROM EVERYWERE kept me guessing and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more from Heilig in the future.

But…I may not have read this if I’d known ahead of time how bad Slate would be for me. I’ve only rated the book 3.5 out of 5 stars because it was a struggle and it didn’t need to be.

If that content warning applies to you, I’d still recommend checking out a plot summary and fan art or something, because it’s a fun book and there will likely be less Slate in those.

In Summation

I wish Slate had been written differently but otherwise I loved this book. Since it seems he will be sticking around, I probably won’t read the sequel.

So I give THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE 3.5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it to people who aren’t triggered by depictions of emotional abuse.

 

Author: JA Goodsell

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is ANATHEMA, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @JAGoodsell or Instagram at books_and_dogs

2 thoughts

  1. Sail to any place, any time? Well, to th 80s obviously, but hope i don’t collide w Duran Duran’s yacht
    I can see why authors feel compelled to add such issues as emotional abuse into their work, but it is not something I am comfortable writing about – at this stage in my life, I want to write more feelgood material
    https://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/the-zandokan-supremacy-and-the-rebellion-of-rajendra/
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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