05 November 2012

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

There is this thing publishing has started doing in the last *mumblemumble* years where they call a first novel a debut novel. This always makes me think of débutantes dressed in white, swanning their way down stairs on their fathers' arms so they can be introduced to society, and I kind of hate it.

Firstly because there's suddenly all this pressure to make your début novel amazing, which only happens if you're Susanna Clarke or Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell, which you are not. And secondly because it puts unrealistic expectations on the book to be HAAAA-mazing and flawless, which is hard enough for a seasoned writer, much less a débutante  And if there's one thing I will do when I'm expected to find a book to be flawless, it's... find a fuckton of flaws.

Julia is 11 when the world starts slowing on its axis. Days gain hours, and while it's kind of a thing, it's not really because she's eleven and has other stuff to worry about, like being the weird kid at the bus stop and liking the handsome skateboarder guy.

Now I'd like you to please pause and think about what you knew when you were eleven. If the answer is "almost nothing," then you are in the same boat as me and the rest of society. Julia, however, is outside of this boat. She's already made it to Adult Reflections Land, where people say things (to themselves) like,

"Carlotta's long gray hair swung near her waist, a ghost, I suspected, of its younger and sexier self" (p. 106).
Look, KT-Dubs, I dunno how long it's been since you were eleven, but I have a 12-year-old brother and I am here to tell you that considering the ghosts of people's formerly sexy hair is not on that age group's radar. AT ALL.

The narrator could have been 19, or 25, or 47 years 3 months and 7 days, because she's speaking through an adult mouthpiece - which I haaaaaaated. And I get that this is a coming-of-age novel, wherein the heroine Learns Lots of Things and Puts Away Childish Ideas, and that it's sad that she has to do that while the world is ending (slooooowly). And when there's a concept as fascinating as the Earth slowing its roll, it seems almost wasteful to overlay it with the everyday issues of a pre-teen girl, which to those of us who are no longer pre-teens are about as exciting and urgent as getting you car washed during the rainy season.

This would have been sooooooer much better as a short story or a novella. Cut 150 pages, throw a couple of other short stories on top about other people in this world, call it a collection and BOOM! Better.

Also because I don't read short stories, and thus wouldn't have read it or felt left out for skipping it.

4.5 of 11 Stockpiles of Apocalypse-Friendly Foodstuffs