First things first, this review is from an uncorrected proof copy - the book will be available to buy in the shops on August 16th.
The year is 2788 and thanks to the use of portals mankind has now moved out to the stars.
Unfortunately, due to a problem with the immune system, a small percentage of humans are only able to survive on Earth. Portalling off planet would mean death unless they can be sent straight back to Earth and hospitalised. These people, know as "handicapped or apes" (amongst other things) are seen as an underclass.
Our heroine in this book, Jarra, is one of these "apes" but she is determined to prove she is eqqual to, if not better than, the off-worlders (or "exo"s). To this end, she enrolls on a Pre-History Foundation Course with University Asgard which is based at dig sites around Planet Earth. By not having to leave Earth for the course Jarra believes she can hide her handicap and pass off as normal to her classmates.
Jarra invents a backstory for herself as Jarra Military Kid (JMK) but is often nearly caught out, until she gets some shock news and actually starts to believe her JMK persona and life is real.
This is a really well thought out story, with believable science that doesn't require you to have a phd in astrophysics. The idea of the old cities of Earth being abandoned as people headed for the stars makes sense. We only get to see the New York site but that is so well described and atmospheric that, especially when the team move from the fringe site to New York Main, the city/ ruins almost becomes a character itself.
Each off system has its' own character traits which makes for an interesting student group and maybe Jarra is not the only one with a secret!
This book will appeal to people who like things like the Hunger Games series but also to a wider audience and, in my opinion, it has massive potential for being made into a movie (I really want to see New York Main and the solar storm on the big screen).
Another, final, plus for me - the book ties up neatly at the end. There may be more from Jarra, Earth Girl, but if there isn't, there are no real loose threads left dangling.
A 5* book from a promising new author