I grew up mostly in Florida and Southern California, both of which were pretty fantastic in terms of environment. Palm trees and green lawns. Near the beach. Great weather with lots of sun. I could wear sandals year around.
Both places, however, were also always under the shadow of impending natural disaster. In California, it was earthquakes; in Florida, hurricanes. I’ve had numerous people over the years say they could never live there because of those threats, even though they don’t occur with much regularity.
When you live there, though, you just make sure you know what to do in case of emergency and go about life without thinking OH MY GOD WE ALL MIGHT DIE ANY SECOND, Y’ALL!
And I’m finding that I’m still carrying on like that as an adult in the face of disappearing honey bees, low crop yields, and an extinction event via methane firestorm.
I’m not big on panic.
That may be why I felt an affinity for Julia, the narrator in The Age of Miracles. Like I was, she’s a pre-teen in a Southern California suburb. She, however, faces a natural disaster that no one could predict or prepare for: Earth’s deceleration, also called The Slowing. It’s not that Julia is so badass that she keeps it together while facing world destruction – it’s that her whole community tries to keep living as if things are normal, as if days aren’t stretching to 72 hours at a turn leading to massive food and energy instability.
Rather than focusing on the science of the situation, The Age of Miracles focuses on Julia, her family, and her coming of age. She’s at that age where she doesn’t really see beyond the pressures of her crumbling family and troubles at school. But, Julia is the type of character that speaks to a wide audience, no matter who you were in middle school. Because, no matter who you were or how popular you were, most of us felt just as alone as Julia does in The Age of Miracles.
This is not hard sci-fi. Readers of the nerd persuasion, such as myself, won’t get answers regarding why the Earth is slowing. Aficionados of post-apocalyptic stories won’t get the usual tales of violent human struggle, either. Julia’s tale is in the in-between time – that time before the world gives up, when everyone tries to carry on as if nothing is wrong.
It’s still a worthwhile, captivating story. In a lot of ways, The Age of Miracles is the story of adolescence. Those are awkward years. Suddenly, the world doesn’t make sense and days seem to go on forever. Suddenly, we see our parents for the flawed people they are. We start growing up and it’s terrifying. But, we get through it as best we can.
And I suppose those are the titular miracles. Society is dying, yet Julia has the milestones we all go through: losing our best friend, losing innocence about our parents, gaining our first love.
Cheese Rating Scale: Jarlsberg. A mild, yet substantial, cheese with a distinctive, buttery flavor. It may be mistaken for Swiss cheese due to it’s holes, but the flavor is far more subtle.
Twihard Rehabilitation Factor: HIGH. There are no vampires or abstinence porn, but Julia is a character many girls will relate to, even if they don’t want to admit it. Bella may be who they want to be, but Julia is who they are.