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Teen Picks: “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

What is it about? What if the apocalypse happened and you didn’t find out until the next day? What if this is the type of disaster is the kind that you cannot feel? You can’t hear it or smell it coming, like animals can before a storm. You are rendered defenseless by this invisible phenomenon, forced to watch and wait for the effects to reach you. What if the Earth’s rotation slowed until the daytime hours lasted weeks and the night hours lasted just as long. Eleven-year-old Julia could tell you first-hand what this feels like. How everything was normal and then suddenly it wasn’t and how her whole life and the world started to deteriorate afterwards. Because in the midst of disaster, Julia still has to deal with the everyday troubles of growing up and discovering who you are.

What did you think of it & why did you pick it up? The Age of Miracles caused me to be terrified that if I peered out my window I would discover it was dark in the middle of the afternoon. For me this would have meant imminent death. I’m one of those people that enjoys being out in the sun. Actually relishes feeling it warm me until even my pinky toes are toasty. Without the sun, I tend to wilt. I get depressed and cranky and I tell people I’m busy if they ask me to hang out when in reality I am swimming in a pool of self-pity.

Despite, the paranoid feeling it gave me I loved the premise. It’s so outside of the box. In a way though, it stuck very close to our society’s problems today which is slightly disturbing. Who knew that the speed of the Earth’s rotation and the amount of sun we receive at one time has such a huge effect on our planet? It blew my mind how many problems this tiny, invisible, difference made. All of the problems were relevant though, and made sense.

This book also blasted me to the past. The past being two years ago, in sixth grade. Although Julia’s sixth grade was obviously nothing like mine, I definitely remember feeling as if the world were ending. Everything becomes all about boys, popularity, bras, curves (or the lack of), maturity, and immaturity. And all of that is just starting, meaning no one has any idea what they are doing. The whole puberty thing is awkward enough without the apocalypse going on and Karen Thompson Walker really captured this. Or at least most of it. I did have problems with this book, which is unfortunate because you can tell by reading the first page that Walker is an excellent writer. She is very literary and uses a lot of expressive writing.

One issue I had was the narrator and protagonist, Julia. She was only in sixth grade, so I didn’t really understand why she was so mature and stoic. Sure the world was ending, so that would probably mature any kid up real fast but this also caused her to have almost a lack of emotion. Maybe I just have a problem with Julie being so young. I read so many novels where the characters are sixteen or over that I tend to stereotype younger characters as babyish.

It’s true though, as a twelve-year-old you can’t do nearly as much as a sixteen-year-old. You simply don’t have that kind of freedom. The entire book would have been much more dynamic if Julia were older. All of the events would be more interesting and overall capture and hold my attention more.

Another quality I disliked about The Age of Miracles was the nostalgic tone. Since the story was told by Julia as a twenty-something-year-old the whole book had a reminiscent feel to it. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; I’m just not sure if I liked it. Again, I felt like this was another factor that added to the book seeming…muted. Obviously events were happening, emotions exploding, and relationships deteriorating, but you couldn’t really feel that. There was no huge climax. A turning point, yes. But in no way could you compare that to the drop of a rollercoaster or even a surprise.

The reason why I gave this novel four stars, despite its issues, was Julia’s relationship with Seth (the love interest) and the ending. Julia and Seth broke my heart. Their innocence was sweet (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT) and I felt like crying along with Julia when Seth left. As for the ending it was mainly the last few words that got too me. “We were here.” They held so much meaning and truly tied up the book in a wonderful way. Some authors just know how to end books; Karen Thompson Walker is one of them. Unlike most apocalypse novels, she acknowledged that sometimes there is no happy ending or hopeful revolution. Nothing could be done for Earth anymore and Julia and the rest of the world had to come to terms with this.

Because of the superb resolution, great premise, and the gorgeous language, I definitely recommend this book to younger readers.

This review is also available at Books that Smolder.

Star Rating:  It was really good. I’ve already told my friends about it.

I would suggest this for: 6th and 7th graders

Review by: Lauren B

Thanks for the review, Lauren!

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