Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Sixteen year old Nixie lives on the Temptation, "a striking caravel, her black hull copper clad below the waterline to keep out worms (and worse depending on what waters we traveled). She rode on a keel...carved with labyrinthine runes from stem to stern, and at the prow, a red-haired mermaid bared her breasts to calm the sea." Her father, Slate, is the captain of the Temptation and also a Navigator who uses maps to travel from one time to the next.

The story opens with Nixie and the Temptation in 1774 India carrying a two Bengal tigers in bamboo cages. Nixie's father is determined to return to Honolulu, 1868. There is a map on offer at Christie's auction house and the tigers will give him the cash to pay for the rare map. Slate is planning to sell the tigers to the leader of a Chinese gang who uses them to kill his rivals in 1981 New York.  They would then travel to New York 2016  to the auction sale to get the map that would take them to Honolulu 1868. Nixie has planned this route through the different time eras to see as much as possible because she believes once her father returns to Honolulu 1868 her life will be over. However, the map of 1981 fails and the Temptation with Nixie, her father Slate, best friend Kashmir, firstmate Bee and Rotgut arrive off the coast of Manhattan in late May 2016.

After a brief encounter with the US Coast Guard, they drop the tigers off at the home of a philanthropist wildlife lover in the Hamptons and then travel on to New York where they moor at Red Hook. While Nix and Kash repair the mast, Slate tells them the auction at Christies is in the morning.

Meanwhile Nix tells Kash her backstory which she learned from Rotgut. Her father was born in 1965 but arrived in Hawaii by using an old map "The Sandwich Isles" by Augustus Mitchell dated 1866. Slate met Nixie's mother in an opium den where she made pipes. She died after giving birth to Nix from an infection.  Nixie's father was at sea and did not know Lin was pregnant. He was away hoping to make money to marry Lin. He used a map of Hong Kong in 1850 to go to China to obtain opium and smuggle it back. And he had an 1869 edition of a map of Honolulu to return to Lin. However when he returned in 1869, Lin was gone and only Nix remained in the opium den. Slate took her aboard his ship and he's been looking for an 1868 Honolulu map ever since to try to save her. She tells Kash she has no idea what the impact will be on her life if her father arrives back in Honolulu in 1868 before she is born. "Some people think that reality would split into two versions, or that it already has split and I just don't know it. But others think that if the past is changed, I might just..."

Slate returns from Christie's having bought the map and tells Nix and Kash that they will leave in the morning after the map is delivered. That evening Nix questions her father telling him that even if he returns to 1868 Honolulu he will only meet a different version of her mother because it all depends upon the version of the map they obtain. But Slate tells her Navigation also depends on the belief of the Navigator.

The next morning, using the map from Christie's the Temptation travels back in time to Honolulu. As they travel towards the harbour Nix sees the flags on the Iolani Palace and realizes that the map did not work because in 1868 the Iolani Palace did not exist. Instead they find themselves in Hawaii on October 24, 1884, sixteen years ahead of the date Slate was aiming for. Slate is devastated because he believed this was the map that would take him back to the right date so he could save Lin.

Nix decides to walk through old Honolulu, walking through Chinatown where she meets a young man with blond hair with a horse. The man who likes to sketch in Chinatown shows her his drawings including a map of the city that includes some of the ancient ruins in the area. He introduces himself as Blake Hart. After they part ways, Nix finds herself at the Joss Happy House Apothecary. Nix tells Auntie Joss that she needs a cure for addiction but Auntie Joss seems to know who Nix is. She tells her that king has passed many new laws since her father was last in Hawaii and not to ask her about her mother. Auntie Joss tells Nix that her mother knew no one else on the island and that her father promised to take her away from the opium den that Joss once operated. Auntie Joss reveals to Nix that her name means nothing but spelled backwards is Xin which means happy in Chinese and that her lucky number is 5 or wu which means me and also not. She offers to tell Nix's future but she refuses. Auntie Joss also reveals that her mother's number was 4 which means death and her father's number was 7 which is the number for togetherness and ghosts. She also gives Nix a small serpent in a jar and when Nix tells her she's looking for maps Auntie Joss tells her she may have something for her.

At the ship a man arrives wanting to speak to Slate, offering a "treasure map" from 1868 in exchange for his help. Nix recognizes that this man was sent by Auntie Joss. Kashmir takes Nix to get fitted for new clothes so she fits into the late 1800's and after dinner they go to a saloon where they get into trouble. Back on the boat Slate recognizing that Nix has developed feelings for Kash, warns her not to get attached. Nix tells Slate about her meeting with Auntie Joss and that Joss has sent a man with an offer for a map.

The next day the man who goes by the name of Mr. D, returns and makes an offer to Slate. He presents a copy of a map of Honolulu dated November 1868 which has all the locations of the bars, brothels and opium dens from that time period. Joss's place had become Hapai Hale or Happy House because a woman working there had become the talk of the town. Nix does not know that Happy House is a play on the Hawaiian word, hapai which means to be pregnant and that this is a reference to her mother. Mr. D tells Slate that the artist of the map is now dead so there is now way to verify the authenticity of the map. He also informs Slate that in order for him to take possession of the map he must give them nine hundred thousand dollars - from the vault at Ali'iolani Hale, the Royal Hawaiian Treasury. Slate and Nix are shocked but Mr. D tells them that Hawaii requires a strong leader.

Slate wants to see the original map so Mr. D suggests that they meet at the home of the brother of the deceased artist, who is holding a soiree. At first Nix refuses to participate, then she wants Kash to steal the map in the hopes she can thwart Slate's involvement in Mr. D's scheme to destabilize Hawaii. Nix's efforts to obtain the map lead to an unexpected friendship, new revelations, her learning how to navigate and a daring plan involving time travel to the Emperor Qin's hidden tomb in the hopes that they can gain possession of the map and save the royal treasury.

Discussion

The Girl From Everywhere is another young adult novel with the currently popular time travel theme.The story is told through the eyes of Nix Song, a sixteen year old girl who time travels with her father Slate aboard his ship, Temptation. Slate's goal is to return to the year 1868 to attempt to prevent the death of his beloved Lin. However, Nix, while wishing to help him save her mother, worries that he may undo her life and cause her to cease to exist. But in time travel fiction anything is possible!

One of the most appealing aspects of this novel is the story line which is original from beginning to end. Because Nix and Slate have the ability to "navigate" to any era in history as long as they have a map, Heilig had many possibilities for her novel. The author chose many interesting eras for her story including 18th century India, present day New York City and Hawaii in the 1880s. Heilig also chose to have Nix, Slate and Kash travel into the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. An archeological wonder, the largely unexplored tomb contains thousands of terra cotta figures of soldiers and took more than thirty-eight years to complete. A description of Qin Shi Huang's tomb was written by the Han dynasty historian, Sima Qian. As Nix mentions in the novel, once the burial rites were completed, all the workers and craftsmen were trapped in the tomb so the tomb's treasures and the measures devised to protect them would never be revealed.  It is also believed that rivers of mercury protect the tomb underground. These links might be useful for those wishing to learn more about the tomb:

Unesco website, Mausoleum of the First Qin Shi Huang

Livescience website: The Secret Tomb of China's 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside?

The setting of Hawaii also seems to be popular in young adult literature these days. In The Girl From Everywhere, the setting is Hawaii in 1884. At this time Hawaii was still an island kingdom with a population of just over 80,000. When Nix and her crew arrive, the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, Princess Bernice Pauahi has just died. By this time in its history, much of Hawai'i's native population had been decimated by diseases brought to the islands by Europeans. Native Hawaiians did not have resistance to measles, smallpox and influenza. Many living on the islands were Americans and Europeans. During Kamehameha II's reign, many traditional Hawaiian cultural practices such as the hula dance were discontinued as a result of the christianization of the native Hawaiian population.  The Hawaiian League whom Nix and Slate encounter in this novel was not organized until 1887 but probably many were of the mind of Mr. D who is likely a reference to Mr. Sanford Dole who was a member of the group and as Heilig indicates in her Author's Note at the back of the novel, became president of the Republic of Hawaii. It was known also as the Committee of Safety and was a secret society composed of Americans (many of whom were descendants of the Protestant missionaries who came to the islands) and Hawaiians intent upon overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy and making the islands part of America.

Nix is a strong female protagonist, determined to live her own life. She wants to learn how to "Navigate", as this will be the one skill that will allow her to determine her own fate. From Aunt Joss Nix learns that Slate will never succeed in returning to Hawaii in 1868 as long as she is with him because she cannot exist twice in the same time. This knowledge gives her the freedom to make decisions about her future. But Nix also experiences a great deal of conflict; she wants to love her father but is hurt by his focus or more accurately, his obsession with saving Lin from her fate. Nix also begins to experience conflict over her feelings for Kash and later for Blake.

Heilig's novel ends happily although Slate's problem remains unresolved and leaves readers wondering what adventures lie ahead for Nix, Slate, Kash and Blake. Overall The Girl From Everywhere is a long novel whose concept was well executed by Heidi Heilig. Heilig has included maps of the settings for each of Nix's time travels and a detailed and interesting Author's Note at the back of the book.

Book Details:

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
New York: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper CollinsPublishers     2016
454 pp.

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