Wendy's Reviews > The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
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's review
Jun 26, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 2012-reads, disaster, ebooks, sci-fi, young-adult
Read in July, 2012

This coming-of-age at the end of the world novel is a miss on many levels.

The premise is intriguing: the earth begins to slow its rotation leading to increasing amounts of daylight and darkness which cause various troubles for people. But the main cause is never explained and the effects are not really consistent. There's lots of random bad things that happen with the environment, but I just didn't buy a lot of what was happening or think that people would act in the ways they did. (Who would really care if some people wanted to live real time while others did clock time, for example? And despite what is said about, say, the parents doing things they would not have done except for the slowing, again I don't see how that really impacted things so much.) There didn't seem to be any grander meaning. So as science fiction I'd say it's a miss. (Even the premise is not entirely unique. I know it's not exactly the same, but it had a very similar feeling to Spin to me. Which I also didn't like much!)

Without that part of the book you're left with a growing up story. The main character is a young girl named Julia dealing with all the regular problems of adolescence in addition to the strange things happening around her. But lots of little things come up that are just dropped. I was particularly bothered by one act of bullying which I think would have had more far-reaching results but which instead just kinda happened and was forgotten. I didn't really like Julia. (Or anyone else here really, save for Grandpa. I liked him.) She was rather bland and passive. And I never really saw the kids in the book as real people. Certainly not as 11-year olds (I have a pet peeve about how kids are portrayed in books sometimes since I know kids around this age that just do not act like this!) and I'm not sure why the characters weren't older, like 13 even. The title is supposed to refer to the time of youth when miraculous changes happen in people seemingly overnight. Well, nothing really miraculous happens here. (And I KNOW the title certainly can't refer to the slowing being miraculous!) So the title is another miss. And the book really doesn't quite fit as adult fiction, but it's apparently not labeled as young adult. Huh?

Also the foreshadowing was just so heavy in this book, it really began to wear on me. Every chapter followed a pattern: some more general facts about what was going wrong in the larger world, things going wrong in Julia's smaller world, and a generous amount of foreboding happening: 'that was the last time I would ever see/eat/smell/touch/do more than dream about that.' Blech. Despite this, there was really no sense of impending doom or panic (and nothing really truly awful happening) that you might expect in such extreme circumstances. So for any feeling of immediacy or real disaster, it was also a miss.

Don't believe the hype. If the idea sounds good to you skip it and try one of these instead:

Want a realer, more raw portrayal of how environmental disaster would play out? Read the Last Survivors books by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

For better sci-fi showing how larger society might try to cope with a catastrophe, try Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.

Also, for good sci-fi on how a society split by sleeping habits might might look, check out Beggars in Spain.

And for better coming-of-age stories, there's a ton out there. But I personally think A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of the best.

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