Recap: In a world filled with young adult fiction novels full of post-apocolyptic stories, author Karen Thompson Walker tells the story not of what happens after the world ends, but what happens as it’s ending. The Age of Miracles is told through the eyes of a middle school aged girl, Julia, who lives in California with her parents when one day, the world begins to slow down.
Referred to as “the slowing,” the slow in time lengthens the days from 24 to 26 to 30 and ultimately upwards of 72 hours a day. The longer days mean lengthy periods of sunlight followed by lengthy periods of darkness. All that excessive darkness leads to the death of crops and therefore animals, while the sunlight leads to radiation and deadly sunburns. Ultimately, the world’s population splits into those who operate in “real time” — a 24-hour period — and those who operate by the new hours of light and dark deemed by “the slowing.”
As Julia’s family follows real time, the inconsistency in the length of days parallels the inconsistencies in her life. She’s coming of age in a time when everyone and everything is changing. It seems as though “the slowing” shifts something — affecting her parents’ marriage and Julia’s friendships at school. Julia’s best friend, Hanna, decides she’s too cool for Julia after Hanna temporarily moves with her family to try to escape “the slowing.” Seth Moreno, the cutest boy in school, befriends Julia. And as scientists work to determine what caused “the slowing,” Julia and everyone else keep trying to live what used to be a normal life.
Analysis: The Age of Miracles is a tragic sci-fi coming-of-age story that makes the reader recognize that middle school is nowhere near as difficult as it could have been, had middle school also coincided with the end of the world. Julia’s feelings throughout the novel are strikingly similar that of any real-life 12-year-old, but “the slowing” adds another layer of strangeness and unfamiliarity.
The concept is unique, and the writing well-done, but I’ll admit the novel was a little too depressing for me. I commend author Karen Thompson Walker for braving the difficulty of not telling a post-apolocolyptic story, but rather, a pre-apocolyptic one. But the feelings of despair at the end of the novel are almost too dark to bear. Unless your plan is to then read The Hunger Games and assume that those novels pick up where this one left off.
MVP: Julia. With a title like The Age of Miracles, I have to admit it is quite a miracle that Julia makes it through adolescence and grows up to be a relatively normal adult. With so much uncertainty worldwide, the added difficulties of growing up, and pretty much everything going awry, it takes one tough, smart 12-year-old to get through it okay.