The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2012)
An interesting side effect of having a Kindle is that I’m finding it more difficult to identify books intended for children or young adults before I start reading them. There is no virtual “section” of the bookstore or the library that separates the YA novels from the ones intended for adults. They are usually jumbled together. I know many adult readers enjoy reading YA novels, but as a general rule, I avoid them, unless one seems to rise above the rest. Lately, though, I have been reading more of them than usual–and also starting and subsequently abandoning them–because I don’t notice when I check them out from the Kindle selections at the library that they are in the YA category.
Once again, I got suckered into reading a YA novel with a dystopian or apocalyptic premise, of which there seems to be an abundance. I want to stress again that I don’t think there is anything wrong with YA novels or the people who read them, mind you, but I am personally tired of them for two reasons.
First, I don’t particularly want to read any more books with child protagonists, especially when the child is a first-person narrator. Yes, I know there are lots of great novels intended for adult readers that have children as main characters; I’ve probably already read most of them. Before any other subject, however, YA novels are primarily about coming of age and the awkwardness of adolescence, and this time of life just doesn’t interest me anymore, being someone who is well past it. That may change when, for instance, my son reaches that age, but for now, I prefer to read about adult characters.
Second, YA novels don’t dive in as deep into their subjects and themes as adult novels do. I find this particularly frustrating when the novel has an interesting premise. The Age of Miracles, for instance, posits that the Earth’s rotation is slowing down. Days and nights are slowly getting longer, with detrimental effects on plant and animal life and the Earth’s magnetic field. Immediately, I’m interested in questions like: What’s the science behind this? What could cause it? What are the physical effects? What are the sociological effects? How do people survive? While The Age of Miracles touches on these issues, it doesn’t delve deep into them, because it’s much more interested in the 11-year-old protagonist’s coming of age. That left me feeling unsatisfied in a way that good science fiction should not.
Having said all that, I think The Age of Miracles is well-written, and it would be a great book for younger readers or adult readers who love YA to pick up. There really is nothing wrong with it, other than it’s a YA novel. I need to figure out a way to identify this category of fiction before checking them out for my Kindle for the library, because once I start reading one and figure out it’s YA, I have to decide whether to go ahead and finish it or chuck it and start over on something else. I finished this one, but for my next read, I’m looking for something more grown-up.