Monday, June 04, 2012

The Age of Miracles

 The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, is aimed primarily at the Young Adult market that has come to be so dominated by teen and near-teen female readers.  Sadly, boys, who have only themselves to blame for the comparative lack of attention from publishers and writers they get, are not offered nearly the choices and numbers available to readers of the opposite sex.  That said, The Age of Miracles might just appeal to both sexes, and it is certainly more worthy of their attention than the never-ending stream of vampire and witch novels that claim everyone’s attention these days.

Walker actually makes her young readers think.  Her story might appear to be a straightforward one at first glance, but it leaves room for readers to decide for themselves the appropriateness of Julia’s actions and whether they might have handled things differently.  Julia is a normal sixth-grade girl.  She is growing up, and is suffering the usual insecurities, doubts, and embarrassments that are part of the whole coming-of-age process.  Unfortunately for her and her friends, however, they are coming of age just when the world seems to be dying of old age.

It has finally become common knowledge that the earth’s rotation is slowing down and that the practice of dividing days into 24-hour periods less and less reflects reality.  As the length of time separating periods of darkness and light steadily increases, and people realize that nothing can be done to stop the process, everything Julia has previously taken for granted about her life starts to fall apart.  Food supplies are threatened; astronauts are stranded in space; birds are falling from the sky; some take to the desert to await the end of the world; and Julia catches her father in a devastating lie.

Karen Thompson Walker
Strange and scary as this is, Julia so seamlessly incorporates all of it into her growing-up process that it begins to seem normal to her.  She still, after all, has to cope with the pain of losing her old girl friends to their new best friends; a new relationship with her first serious boyfriend; the knowledge that her parents are more fallible than she ever knew; and imagining her place on a planet whose long term future is far from assured.  Julia and her new boyfriend Seth are there for each other just when everyone else seems to have forgotten them.

That relationship leads to one of the more moving final paragraphs of a book I have encountered in a long while.  The Age of Miracles is, almost by definition of its genre, not likely to impact adult readers the way it will move younger ones and should not be judged by adult reader standards.  But do the young readers in your family a favor – steer them towards this one if they will let you.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. Susan, honestly, I had to step back and remember that I was not judging an Adult novel when I first finished this one. The more I thought about it, I realized that it is perfectly pitched for its intended market. Not real deep, but should be very meaningful to YA readers and teachers, I think.

  2. In this coming of age story, Karen Thompson Walker does a good job of portraying the mindset of her "tween" protagonist, Julia, who has plenty of her own problems to handle at home, school, and in finding first love, without having the Earth start slowing in its rotation.

    Slow Horror should be this book's genre. We're used to the quick cause and effect of tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, but here we have a global situation that humanity can't really comprehend, let alone manage. It's an End of Times scenario which takes the plot temporally in a wild direction.