Monday, July 23, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Title: The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / California / Ecological Disaster / Coming-of-Age / Teenage Protagonist but not YA )
Publisher/Publication Date: Random House (2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Raced through it in about two hours.
One-sentence summary: A fourteen-year old girl reflects on the year the Earth's rotation slowed down.

Do I like the cover?: I actually don't -- I don't think it captures the novel's feel nor plot, but I do like the textured cover. I suppose it offers a kind of youthfulness that represents the heroine but doesn't look straight out YA.

First line: We didn't notice right away.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- even if you don't consider yourself a YA reader, this is really a coming-of-age novel in a unique setting.

Why did I get this book?: I love disaster novels.

Review: This quick read is a quiet coming-of-age story with an unusual setting. Sometime now, or vaguely in the future, the Earth has started slowing. Eleven-year old Julia -- in rather mature prose, but I didn't mind -- reflects on the impacts of the slow-growing disaster on a planetary and personal level.

Living in sunny California, the slight increase in the day's lengths aren't immediately noticed, but as the days stretch from 27 hours to 40 hours, her family -- and society at large -- struggle to maintain some semblance of normalcy. The government declares life will operate in 'clock time', maintaining a rigid adherence to the 24 hour clock (school starts at 7am, even if it is a solar midnight, etc.). Radicals operate on 'real time', following the day's rhythms, even if it means staying awake for twenty hours or more.

There's a sweetly myopic focus on Julia's social life that resonated even if I, at times, wanted more ecological disaster than emotional minefield. Julia's chronicle of this time is mixed with national news and scientific discovery as well as the tumultuous unraveling of her own life -- the disintegrating school days, her confusing friendships, her first crush.

The characters aren't totally vibrant, but I don't know if that comes from the author's skill -- Julia is only a pre-teen, how nuanced of an understanding can she have of her parent's marriage and emotional landscape? -- or the need for more page space for Walker to flesh everyone out.

A brief read -- just 220ish pages -- I was mostly charmed although I found the ending a bit abrupt. There's a jump when storyteller Julia reveals her current age, the status of the world, and it felt sudden after the sort of slow, lingering storytelling before it. Still, I read this in two hours, racing to see just what the end result of this fascinating catastrophe would be, and while there wasn't the raining doom I thought I was getting, I enjoyed the novel take on a young girl's uncomfortable journey toward adulthood.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Age of Miracles to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 8/10.

21 comments:

  1. It sounds like we had pretty similar takes on this one, but I think you enjoyed it a bit more than I did. It's definitely more coming of age/young adult than disaster novel.

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    1. It helped, I think, seeing reviews like yours -- I was better prepared for what it was -- and so I could enjoy that. I think if I came to it cold I would have been more disappointed!

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  2. Looks great! I didn't realize it was YA. I'll check it out. Nothing like a good disaster novel!

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    1. I'm not sure it is actually YA -- I think it's meant to be adult fiction -- but it is a really unique premise.

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  3. Hmm, reminds me a bit of Susan Beth Pfeffer's novels -- though not so doom-and-gloom. The premise is really interesting, and I have a hunch I would like this one!

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    1. yes -- the doom and gloom was sort of a backdrop to the emotional impact of the story and since I knew this wasn't a wholesale disaster novel, it worked for me.

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  4. TWO HOURS!! Wow. That is some super fast reading. Craziness! I wish I could do that. I won't even let myself read for that amount of time, let alone that I can't read that fast even if I had two hours. Boy, how many of my review books could I do, then...

    I've been curious about this book, but I feel lukewarm about it now. Yet Meg's reference to Pfeffer's novels, which I've also been curious about, makes me still want to read it!

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    1. Steph, I am a fast reader but it helped that I was parked at the beach with just this book to read -- the time zipped by and I love finishing a book in one setting. It's a pretty amazing feeling and I'm so grateful my wife doesn't mind it when I ignore her for a few hours! ;)

      Other folks have really loved this one, like Jessie of Ageless Pages Reviews (who comments below -- here's her review) -- it might work for you. You can check out an excerpt of the novel here -- that should give you a sense of the writing style.

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  5. I liked this one a lot. I thought Walker's style and prose were really quite beautiful - if slightly unbelievable for the age of her narrator.

    I also hate the cover! Totally does not fit in with the story or tone of the plot.

    Good luck for everyone in the giveaway!

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    1. Her writing was nice -- I can't wait to see what her next novel will be. Since [SPOILER!] we find out she's writing the book at, what, 22, the mature voice doesn't surprise me -- but does create a bit of a disconnect btwn the tween Julia and the way she sounds.

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  6. I am going to get a chance to listen to this one soon, and I have to say that I am rather excited after reading your review! I think the story sounds different and interesting, and I want to know more about this rotational problem! Fantastic review today! I will have to let you know what I think when I am done!

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    1. I bet this will be a marvelous audio book -- it has a very confessional feel, in a way -- can't wait for your thoughts on it! The rotational slowing thing was fascinating -- very chilling!

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  7. I've seen some mixed reviews of this one, but I'm still interested in checking it out.

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  8. It must be pretty good if you read it so quickly! I'm not crazy about the cover either.

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  9. I am glad you liked this. I was trying to convince my sister to buy a copy when she was looking for new reading material.

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  10. I also enjoyed this book. Thanks for the giveaway! here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/07/09/2012-33-review-the-age-of-miracles/

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  11. I did read this recently and had really mixed feelings about it. While I could appreciate the originality of the story/plot and the point of view, the telling of the story at times felt a little bit slow for me. Especially since it seemed like it should have been such a tension filled book. I have also read in some places that this was a book that had lots of publishers bidding on it for some big money.....I found that interesting. I just didn't love it. Glad you enjoyed it though!

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  12. I found it to be lacking in several areas. I gave it brownie points for originality but I felt as if the real time vs. clock time aspect could have been the plot for the entire book. It fascinated me and yet, she didn't spend too much time on it.

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  13. I'm looking for books to read on my upcoming cross-country flight and this one might be a great one since I could easily finish it during the flight. Thanks for the recommendation and for being on the tour!

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  14. I couldn't put this down, but I was disappointed by the ending and then the more I thought about it, the less I liked the whole book. It does keep you going though!

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  15. Thanks for the chance to win this fascinating book!

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