About the Book

Title: The Age of Miracles
Published: 2012
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Like a Mother-Effing Adult
BFF Charm: Sure
Talky Talk: Stieg Larsson Ikea Syndrome
Bonus Factors: Science, Shitty Miracles
Anti-Bonus Factors: Hate Crimes
Relationship Status: Let Me Introduce You To My Friend

Cover Story: Like a Mother-Effing Adult

This cover is legit, y’all. And I took the dust jacket off and walked around with just the plain cover, which looks like this:

It’s classic, simple, and adult. And that might be because this book probably isn’t actual YA.

The Deal

Julia is eleven years old when the world changes. Suddenly, the earth’s rotation starts slowing, and each day grows a little longer. Periods of sunlight and darkness stretch on for longer and longer. As animals die out, crops begin to fail, and governments struggle to keep their societies functioning, Julia finds that her relationships with friends and family are deteriorating, too. Can she adapt, repairing her existing friendships, and creating new ones? Can the human race adapt to a new world that lacks meaning behind the passage of time? Or is it already too late?

BFF Charm: Sure

BFF charm with a :-| face

I feel kind of lukewarm about Julia. Maybe it’s because she is so shy and lonely, or maybe it’s because the story is told in the past from the perspective of an older, wiser Julia, but she felt pretty distant as a character. I guess I’d still give her my charm, but mostly because she needs a good BFF rather than because I want to be her BFF, and I’m not sure she’d want my pity. Regardless, I’d kick that Darryl in the nuts for her. What a douche.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Julia has a long, secret crush on Seth, a quiet and reserved classmate of hers. Seth and Julia’s relationship is of the Jenna and Cameron Quick variety–much deeper yet understated than your average YA romance. There are a few kisses, but middle school is a little young for me to find the romance very swoony.

Talky Talk: Stieg Larsson Ikea Syndrome

I really struggled with the writing in this book. It’s not that it was bad! I just have some bones to pick. First of all, the pacing was off. There is a lot of description, and it got into what my sister and I refer to as “Stieg Larsson Ikea Syndrome,” taken from that time in the Millennium Trilogy when Larsson talks about Ikea for a while, and no matter how much you love meatballs and Lacks, you find yourself banging your head against the desk, wondering where the hell his editor is. Similarly, Karen Thompson Walker gets a little carried away with describing how Julia feels about something, or talking about the science behind whales beaching themselves or whatever. Which is all interesting and important to creating this rich world Julia lives in, but also realllllly drags down the forward momentum of the plot. I guess this is fitting for a book about the slowing of days, but it felt like work reading this book.

The other things I didn’t like were the tense and the use of repetition. Walker loves her repetition, which is cool! But unfortunately, it turns out that I hate repetition. A lot of the book reads like this:

His sadness was always apparent. It was in the angry whip of his wrist as he let the rock go. It was in the tired motion of his head. It was in the way he squinted at the sky but would not look away.

If that’s fine with you, great! Maybe this is the book for you. But it got pretty old pretty quickly for me.

As for the tense, as I mentioned earlier, the story is told in past tense, with future Julia narrating. Props to Walker for trying something different, but I found it to be kind of a weird choice. I didn’t really understand the literary purpose behind this, and I kind of think she used it to cheat on her storytelling. If I had a nickel for every time I read the phrase “later we learned” about a mysterious circumstance generated by the slowing, I would have a lot of nickels. Like, at least a roll’s worth.

The other result of this older narrative is that I don’t really know who this book’s audience is. The main character is 11 and has 11-year-old problems, but her voice is kind of adult. I don’t think I would have liked reading it when I was Julia’s age, but I imagine that the middle school protagonist is off-putting to a lot of adult readers. This book is not YA, but I’m also not convinced that it’s adult fiction either.

Bonus Factor: Science

A Star Wars robot sits among dirty machine parts

Although it sometimes detracted from the pace of the book, Walker does a good job imagining consequences of the rotational slowing that wouldn’t have occurred to me. Obviously a sudden change in day and night would cause immediate problems for plants and many animals, but things like the astronauts at the space station not being able to get back? Insect populations booming after birds die off? They were not the first things that came to mind for me.

Bonus Factor: Shitty Miracles

I like a book that embraces the fact that sometimes, miracles are assholes.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Hate Crimes

After the world slows down, most governments implement “clock time;” in other words, the world keeps operating on a 24 hour schedule, regardless of when the sun rises and sets each day. A small subset of the population–mostly hippies and people who rely on sunsets for religious practice, choose to operate in “real time,” living each day based on when the sun rises and sets. And for some reason, the clock timers are not down with the real timers, and proceed to harass them in increasingly horrible ways. Which not only sucks, but also didn’t feel really believable. I guess I’m not cynical enough–obviously, humans are total dicks who have committed hate crimes for much stupider reasons than when people like to sleep, but I just didn’t get the motivation behind a sudden and aggressive hatred of a random assortment of neighbors.

For instance, Julia’s observant Jewish neighbors weren’t secretly observant before the slowing. Everyone was kind fine with it, but suddenly, now that they are real-timers, all their neighbors must ostracize and harass them. WHO FUCKING CARES? It’s the apocalypse! Shouldn’t you all be out stocking your basement with food and guns? Where are your priorities, hate criminals?

Relationship Status: Let Me Introduce You To My Friend

Book, you seem pretty ok, I’m just not that into you. Our date was fine, but at the end of the night, there just wasn’t that spark. I know there are lots of other gals who would be all over you, but you were a little morbid and overly-earnest for me. We can still be friends, right? In fact, I have this friend you should meet. I think you two will really hit it off…

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Random House. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Age of Miracles is available now.

Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.