Saturday, May 12, 2012

YA Sci-Fi: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Publisher: Random House
Date: June 26, 2012
Format: ARC
Acquired: from GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Pages: 270
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

My review: The Age of Miracles is what I love in science fiction: the use of the genre as a springboard for explorations of other issues. In this case, the sci-fi novel also becomes a coming-of-age tale, bringing to mind the dark days (no pun intended, given the nature of this apocalypse) of middle school. Reading the book, I was constantly reminded of Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake because the same general themes are repeated throughout. Science fiction and a slightly different voice merely replace the magical realism of Bender's novel.

As far as writing and storytelling go, The Age of Miracles makes a magnificent debut for Walker. Her writing style is excellent, and Julia is one of the most naturalistic and well-spoken YA narrators I've read in a while. Her emotions and relationships seem so real, her sixth grade year's story bringing back to life some of my own repressed middle school memories. The science fiction elements are mostly believable, with few "huh?" moments where the sequence of catastrophic events are rushed or incohesive. There's very little to not like about The Age of Miracles, making it an excellent read both as a sci-fi and as a coming-of-age novel.

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