Cover of The Waning Age by S.E. Grove. A dark-haired girls face disolving in a fog

About the Book

Title: The Waning Age
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Yawn
Drinking Buddy: Warm Water
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Typical YA Dystopia
Talky Talk: Emotionless
Bonus Factors: The Joy of Sects, We
Bromance Status: A Book That I Have Read

Cover Story: Yawn

Giant teen face. The main character is Hispanic, and I don’t get that vibe from the model. The fuzzy image and white cover make a nice emotional amnesia motif.

The Deal:

About a hundred years in the future, humans ‘wane’ at around ten years old: they lose the ability to feel emotion. Oh, one still can understand concepts like self-preservation, family loyalty, and even humor, which is more of an intellectual concept than an emotional one. But love, passion, anger, and jealousy all die upon adolescence. Only the rich can afford synthetic emotion drugs, which is kind of a crap shoot. One moment you’re feeling fine, the next you’re running naked down the street, screaming.

Natalia Peña waned years ago. Her mother killed herself after taking some bad emotion drugs. Natalia is tough and loyal, especially to her younger brother, Cal. But she no longer feels. It’s just not there. Cal, though, he’s getting to the age where most kids begin to wane, and is just as sensitive and loving and scared as ever. A drug corporation takes notice and collects Cal for some ‘testing.’ Soon, her brother has vanished and no one seems to care. She has to face bureaucrats, angry gang members, and corrupt law enforcement, and still she has no idea who has her brother or why.

Should Natalia use her police connections to track down her brother? Should she find Cal’s estranged father and insist he assert his parental rights? Or should she just hit corporate headquarters with guns blazing?

And why does she ‘feel’ such a strong desire to help her brother?

Drinking Buddy: Warm Water

Two pints of beer cheersing

Natalia, as well as her badass friends, are certainly ones I’d like on my side when things go south. She’s fearless (naturally), logical, and will not give up. That being said, her lack of emotion doesn’t make her the world’s biggest party animal. I’d take on a biker gang with her, but wouldn’t necessarily like to go on a long car trip together.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Typical YA Dystopia

Yes, Natalia has to fight drug crazed gang members and corporate thugs, while making alliances with assassin nuns and corrupt cops. But we’ve seen a lot of this before. It was exciting, but unoriginal.

Then there’s Troy, the rich, irrepressible bad boy, who takes enough emotion drugs to want to impress Natalia. Really impress her with heroism and good needs, not just his money. Natalia no longer feels love or giddiness, but there is that base biological drive…

Talky Talk: Emotionless

The author has taken on a very daunting task: writing an emotionless character that we care about. Often times I’d read about Natalia learning she is marked for death by a gang and wonder at her lack of reaction. Then I’d remember. Unfortunately, the main character’s inability to feel deep emotion really translated into a flat, play-by-play recitation of the action. ‘Now the gang members are chasing me with knives and chains. I am in danger.’ Imagine Mr.Spock describing Times Square on New Year’s Eve. You know what’s happening, but the narrator’s lack of joy, fear, or frustration seeps over to the reader.

Cal narrates a few chapters in the guise of essays and interviews with his mysterious captors. This is obviously an excuse to explain to the reader why humans have lost their capacity to feel. Unfortunately, ten-year-old Cal’s parts read like a nineteen-year-old college freshman trying to BS his way through a Psychology 101 paper.

The author also introduced a new future slang, peppered with Spanish phrases which seemed to have now become part of the standard California dialect. A neat gimmick,but it’s no A Clockwork Orange.

Bonus Factor: The Joy of Sects

A circle with a map in the middle and multiple different religious symbols all around the edges like a compass

Natalia realizes that Cal’s father is still out there somewhere, and if he could show up and demand his parental rights, they may be able to force Cal’s captors to release him. Natalia tracks down the father, who’s now running his own church. The New Puritans. Lots of prayer and bland clothing. Except most of the nuns are trained in the martial arts and aren’t afraid to fight for the lord. Can I get an ‘amen’?

Bonus Factor: We

Cover of WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin

This was a 1924 Russian novel about a society where the state encourages people to suppress their emotions and has invented a medical procedure to help. It also includes one of the first modern depictions of a spaceship in literature.When reading The Waning Age, I couldn’t help wondering if the authorities, like Zamyatin’s, were encouraging the loss of emotion. I thought we might have been building up to a sequel to investigate this, but this book seems to be a stand alone.

Bromance Status: A Book That I Have Read

I have read this book. It was informative and entertaining. Now I have written the review, as per my agreement with the publisher. That is all.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. which made me weep with emotion. Then, when I realized I was not getting paid to write this review, I flew into a state of pure rage. What’s in these pills anyway?


Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.