Friday, August 30, 2013

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of MiraclesThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Format: Audio (Electronic from Library)
Narrated By: Emily Janice Card
Original Publication Year: 2012
Genre(s): Young Adult Science Fiction
Series: NA
Awards: None

It has been a year of young adult literature for me. It started during a very busy, stressful time at work when I needed some straightforward unabashed escapism and it has just continued on from there. Probably half my reading this year has been young adult*. I mention this just to establish that I had certain expectations going into “The Age of Miracles” – I expected it to be in the vein of much of the other “post-apocalyptic” YA fiction crowding the shelves. But this book took me by surprise and in a very good way.

At heart this is a coming of age tale for a girl I had no problem recognizing. The perspective is the narrator at an older age (maybe 20-25) looking back with a wiser eye at her 11-12 year old self. She’s looking back at this period of time in particular because it was at the beginning of the end of the world. The fact that we are focused at the beginning of a catastrophe, before people realize it is a catastrophe, makes this book somewhat unique. And unlike many other YA books I’ve read this is an apocalypse as Stephen King wrote it in “The Stand”. The author has devised a (somewhat) believable scenario – the slowing of the planet’s orbit – and really thought through all the real consequences and how people would react.

And while the “end of the world as we know it” is an important and interesting aspect of the book, I want to emphasize that it is nowhere near its driving force. The driving force is a serious and introverted 11 year old girl just trying to get through the days at school, losing and gaining friends, starting to really see her parents as people, and falling in love for a first time.  Dealing with a world that is changing in unpredictable ways is just icing on the cake. Or the final layer of dirt on a mud pie. It’s melancholy and personal and it’s every day.

The narrator’s crush is Seth Moreno and as I thought about him; serious, broody, very cute and cool without trying to be; the image of Jordan Catalano from the TV show “My So Called Life” jumped to mind.
Jordan Catalano looking broody

This made me realize that actually this book and that short-lived show have a lot in common – the players in the book are younger but the tone, effectiveness and themes are all very similar. Of course if you weren’t alive in the early 1990’s you probably know nothing about this show which excludes much of the target readership but: if you like that show, track down this book, if you like this book, track down that show.

The narrator of the audio book was competent and well chosen but not especially remarkable.

This is a really lovely and affecting coming of age tale with some apocalyptic flavor thrown in for good measure. In addition, I think it is a good crossover book and would be enjoyed by YA and adult readers equally.

*Part of why I have continued to read YA is that 1) I created a reading list after originally doing research on various blogs and goodreads to find some good books to read and I do want to get to them all and 2) I’ve been listening to a lot of books and prefer to do so with fairly straightforward/less complex books.  Does anybody else have this listening quirk?

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