The Girl From Everywhere is a well written and intriguing book very reminiscent of Nim’s Island (though the story is different). Historical facts and observations are woven throughout this tale of adventure and time travel though the story stays firmly grounded in 1860s Hawaii. But at its heart is the tale of a young girl’s journey of finding her own home when the whole of actual and fantastical history are available to her.
Story: Nix has sailed the sea of time with a father fully obsessed with finding the key to returning to the place and time that would have prevented her mother from dying. The key is a map that must be hand drawn and accurate to the time period. The problem is that every map they find of the correct time fails – and her father falls further into opium addiction. But now her father has a new lead – a map coming up to auction that they must find the funds to purchase. Worrying for Nix is the essential time paradox conundrum – if her father can return to save her mother, how will her history change (and will she even continue to exist)?
The story moves briskly and the dialogue believable. Nix is an admirable character and her young companion Kashmir – a thief from a fantastical ‘Arabian Nights’ type of historical location – suitably complex. The characters are written much better than most YA books: from Nix’s fatalism, Kashmir’s quiet strength, and Nix’s father’s blind obsession with saving his dead wife. There’s a romance that’s subtle and mercifully lacking instaluv or soppiness.
Themes of love and loss, acceptance and guilt, and ingenuity in tough situations are all covered. But the majority of the book takes place in Victorian Hawaii and explores the history and culture of that era. At times, it does get bogged down quite a bit in that lore – a reason I rated this as a solid 4 instead of 5 stars. I appreciated the tidbits of history when they quickly raced through two other historical locations (1980s NYC, a Qing dynasty tomb) but the Hawaii sequences sapped a lot of the energy and life from the book. It took a big story and put it in a very small and claustrophobic box with disingenuous villains.
The Girl From Everywhere is full of pathos to balance the ‘pirate’ type of adventure. Those worried about endless jumps in random history need not; again, most of the book takes place in Hawaii or on board the ship getting to/from Hawaii. The world building is excellent and it is clear Heilig thought the story through thoroughly. In all, a great adventure with an interesting set of characters and much more story to tell. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.