Cover of The Cartographers, with a young Asian American woman in a bright orange jacket sitting on a hot pink escalator

About the Book

Title: The Cartographers
Published: 2022
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Hi-Contrast
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: John Greenish
Bonus Factors: New York City, Best Buds
Relationship Status: Love Love Love

Cover Story: Hi-Contrast

A girl sits on a subway escalator in high contrast. It’s punchy, it’s urban, it’s very showstopping, which is different from the quiet, introspective novel within. Not sure if it fits, but it does catch the eye. 

The Deal: 

Ocean Wu is eighteen, depressed, and deferred a year from her university without telling her mother. She lives in New York with two other girls in a Brooklyn apartment while dipping into her savings, when one day during a citywide power failure she meets Constantine Brave in a subway. He’s gorgeous, tags graffiti, and speaks philosophy to her. Ocean falls for him. But is he really good for her?

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

I was drawn to Ocean’s story because I’ve been depressed in my life, too, and also took a gap year after high school. I want to tell her that things can get better. I want to tell her that beautiful boys who quote philosophy can be terrible for your self esteem, even if they seem to peer into your soul. Basically, I want to hold Ocean in my arms and let her cry on me if she needs to.  

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Constantine, or Constant, as friends call him, could have gone to the Augustus Waters School for Sexy Boys. Yes, he’s precocious, talks of Sisyphus, draws beautiful graffiti, makes Ocean long to talk to him. Yes, he’s sexy. He has beautiful hands and curly hair. He’s swoonworthy. And there are some swoony parts to this book! If I were eighteen, I’d be all over Constantine.

Talky Talk: John Greenish

The entire time I was reading this book, I thought to myself that the writing was very John Greenish. Not just Constantine’s Augustus Waters-esque way of talking, but the novel itself evoked a similar writing quality that made me want to read it in one sitting. These are smart kids who speak more eloquently than their real-life counterparts – almost Amy Sherman-Palladino of them. It was really beautiful, actually. I couldn’t get enough. 

Bonus Factor: New York City

Overhead view of New York City skyline

New York City makes a beautiful, bold appearance in this novel, and Constantine and Ocean meet in different boroughs as they explore their friendship. From the rocky beach where Constantine spray-paints the sand, to a cemetery where Ocean gets locked in, they run the full gamut of places that poor students who find ways not to spend money can visit. It isn’t the flashy New York that you see in movies or TV shows, but the quieter spots that often get overlooked. 

Bonus Factor: Best Buds

Characters from Baby-Sitters' Club show sitting on a bed talking and laughing.

Tashya and Georgie, Ocean’s roommates, are flawed but amazing characters who shouldn’t be shunted aside as just side characters. They don’t get a lot of face time with the reader, but every appearance of these two is to be treasured. Tashya, a conservatory student who plays piano and has a rivalry going on with the other gifted pianist, and Georgie, a dropout who comes from old money and gets into making polymer clay earrings, date each other throughout the book and it’s precious and wonderful. I want a spin-off with these two!

Relationship Status: Love Love Love

It’s rare that I find a book that I fall in love with, but this one is a winner. From the beautiful, flowing prose to the intimate subject matter that I could relate to, I felt this one down in my bones. Just wonderful. 

Literary Matchmaking

You Know Me Well

Though Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay is probably the better match, the same quiet, introspective writing comes through in You Know Me Well by LaCour and David Levithan. 

The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan also deals with depression, though it is Leigh’s mother who is the depressed one.

The Fault In Our Stars

In case you’re the last person on earth who hasn’t read it, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has philosophical boys with beautiful hands.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I received neither kittens nor compensation in exchange for this review. The Cartographers is available now.

Scout Luna is a writer living in Austin, TX, with her husband and three cats. Her hobbies include water coloring and reading!