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
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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