I enjoyed Earth Girl
a great deal - enough to pre-order Earth Star
, even though I was a little worried: would the second book stand up? Would it be as good?
It did, and it was. I'm sort of hovering between four and five stars here, really - it's only a few minor things that don't quite allow me to give it the full five (which I'm trying hard not to hand out happily to every single book I've enjoyed).
Anyway. The story in Earth Star
picks up very soon from where Earth Girl
ended, and builds directly on the events of that first book, so I'm rather glad I didn't have a long wait between the two (although major points are recapped, briefly). Jarra, the main character, is a bit more balanced and clearly a bit more mature in this one - she's still a teenager, and she's not done a 180° turn, obviously, so there's still some impulsiveness, some hesitation, trouble with opening up and all that, which makes a lot of sense, but I've enjoyed seeing her actually develop from the (understandably) angry girl of the first book into someone who will almost certainly become a mature adult some day.
I'm generally not one for teen romance in books, but I have to say I like Jarra and Fian. Fian is such a thoroughly decent
young man, which is so refreshing. He's a capable, intelligent boy; he's not a doormat, and he's got enough sense to put his foot down when needed, and he's just genuinely decent, funny and respectful (when needed) that, well ... as I said, it's a refreshing change from all the usual dangerous bad boys in YA books. (Also, no triangles. And while Jarra and Fian hit it off pretty quickly in the first book, it doesn't come off as the usual YA insta-love - there's physical attraction, certainly, but they've also got problems, and they're actually working at their relationship.)
Also, I adore Playdon. Like Fian, he's just also so thoroughly decent
. It's so nice to have characters like that. I was really hoping that this book would continue enough from the first one to keep the same cast of characters, and it did - and to my great relief Playdon was still in it, too. :D
As far as plot goes ... on the one hand, when I'm being a realist, it is, of course, rather silly to believe that the military would draft an 18-year-old - granted, an 18-year-old with skills and experience far above average for her age group, but still a relatively inexperienced 18-year-old - into a significant role for a First Contact situation. We all know it wouldn't happen - not on 21st century Earth, and probably not some centuries in the future either.
On the other hand, a relatively inexperienced teenager taking charge and achieving the impossible is a staple of YA fiction, speculative and otherwise. There's a legion of very young literary heroes doing the impossible - and being handed the responsibility to do stuff by their elders. It's a convention of the genre, and one where I'm perfectly willing to suspend disbelief. In this particular case, I appreciated how this was actually pointed out, repeatedly, by Jarra herself - and how there was at least a good attempt to explain it in the narrative, to give reasons for it. And the way it happened, basically going from Jarra being drafted to flush out the more prejudiced members of the Alien Contact teams to deciding to make her the face of the campaign (after she made some good suggestions and offered a fresh and different angle), while making it very clear that the experienced people, the experts, were doing most of the hard behind-the-scenes work - that worked for me well enough.
Niggling issue (that is at least partly responsible for the loss of that fifth star): I loved Playdon "flashing his evil grin" the first three times or so. But at one point in the middle of the book, it happened just way too often. Half the times would have sufficed.