The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker, Random House Inc, 2012, 278 pp
Lotsa hype on this one, which was released today. It will probably do well because the writing is accessible, not too challenging, and the pages whiz by. Also while it is being marketed to adults, I found it equally suitable for readers 14 and up.
Julia is looking back at her life. She was 11 years old when the rotation of the earth began to slow down, the days and nights gradually getting longer, the environment deteriorating and life getting weirder month by month. As adults and the governments of Earth freak out and try to deal with these changes, Julia and her friends proceed through the usual coming of age experiences: soccer, bras, periods, boys.
In her Southern California suburb live regular middle-class families including Mormons, green living types, and the remnants of broken marriages: the standard 21st century American neighborhood in affluent cul de sacs. As things get increasingly strange, conflicts break out and Julia's parents begin to fracture as a couple. So she has plenty to deal with.
I liked the book just fine while I was reading it but by the end I had qualms. Because though all the elements of good fiction are there (characters developing throughout an imaginative plot), it just seemed a little too calm and dreamlike when actually the world was going to hell.
Nothing really bad happens to Julia, except that she and everyone around her lose all of life as they knew it. It's as though the author is breaking it to us gently that the world is going to end. Will we really be that well adjusted if global warming and environmental meltdown is our future?
My conclusion: good read while I was reading it but unbelievable after I finished. A few days later I went to my granddaughter's middle school graduation. As one of the honors students gave her talk, I thought I heard her say that her goal was "to grow up and help fix the mess you have made of our planet." Ha! Now that is my idea of a contemporary eleven-year-old female.
(The Age of Miracles is available in hardcover and Google eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)