The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

How many of us have wished for a few extra hours in the day?

For a young girl in sixth grade, a single day can feel like an eternity. From worrying about what to wear, what to say to boys, and who to sit with at lunch, Julia has enough problems with fill a 24-hour day. And then, something astonishing and terrifying happens. The Earth’s rotation begins to slow, and the days get longer. The extra hours of daylight certainly don’t make any of Julia’s problems easier to handle, though–in fact, the more hours in the day, the more problems Julia seems to face. Along with her average sixth grade girl worries like what bra to buy, Julia must also learn to sleep with the sun shining, grow her own vegetables in a greenhouse, and how to deal with the changing of the Earth changing everything she has known and loved.

the-core-movie-poster-2003-picture-mov_57f0f933_bThis is one of those books that a friend who is a middle school librarian handed to me and said “tell me if I made a good buy.” I had actually never heard of it before, and when I read the synopsis talking about how the Earth’s rotation slows down, it put me in mind of that movie The Core where scientists have to drill down to the center of the Earth to get the core spinning again. I mean, it wasn’t the worst disaster movie I had ever seen. And Aaron Eckhart is decent in it. But I digress. Anyway, I had also just read a few lousy YA coming-of-age-in-the-middle-of-disaster books, and I didn’t have high hopes.

I just love it when I’m really wrong about how bad a book is going to be. I loved Age of Miracles, for lots of reasons, but here are some of the best. First, the science. I’m not an astrophysicist. I have no idea whether or not the globe could really start spinning more slowly one day, and it’s not something that’s going to keep me up at night. I liked how Walker didn’t try to make up a scientific explanation for how the globe would slow down. She tells us often that no one knows, it’s a mystery and the people of Earth just have to learn to live with it. Instead, we get to see what the effects are. I found them believable and easy to imagine actually happening.

age of miracles coverI described this book to my librarian friend as the main character growing up and learning how to be a middle-school-aged young lady during a natural disaster of epic proportions. Watching Julia grow up and “find herself” was one of my favorite parts of this book. She had very typical middle school girl problems, like her best friend randomly deciding not to be her friend anymore and ignoring her, and trying to find new friends but not knowing how. I loved how she described her crush on Seth, too. A very cute, pure, first-love type of story.
In addition to the  main issue of the Earth slowing down and days and night getting longer is the issue of how the clock is going to work now that days are so much longer. After trying to make their schedules match the sun as long as possible, governments throughout the world decide to switch to “clock time,” where they follow a 24-hour day regardless of what the sun is doing. People who don’t want to follow this system are called “real-timers” and are discriminated against, sometimes violently. Julia’s piano teacher and neighbor Sylvia chooses to be a real-timer, which leads to Julia’s mother telling her she can’t take piano lessons from Sylvia anymore, or having anything whatsoever to do with her. Julia doesn’t understand this discrimination, and it leads to some of her first teenage rebellion. I found this to be a very cleverly written conflict that really added to the story.
I also liked how slow and drawn out this apocalypse was. It wasn’t that the action in the book moved slowly, because it didn’t feel that way at all. But the Earth changed slowly, and you were able to watch the scientists try to fix it and come up with solutions. That was really cool, and something I had not encountered before in any other dystopian YA novels. This was a great read, I’m so glad my friend recommended it to me. If you like YA dystopian/natural disasters novels, you will love this book!
Happy reading,

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