Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published:
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 1/2013
Post-apocalyptic tales have long been popular on the YA scene, but here we have a slightly newer twist -- the during-apocalypse story. It’s an ordinary day at first for Julia, a middle-class, middle-school, thoroughly middling kid -- privileged, but not special. She lives in a surprisingly diverse suburban California neighborhood with her parents, having sleepovers with friends and thinking about boys, bras, and soccer practice. Then “the slowing” starts, and her world falls apart, in more ways than one. The earth slows in its rotation, changing the length of a day first by minutes, then hours, changing all life irrevocably, causing chaos and destruction that, somehow, never quite degenerates into panic for Julia. She’s somehow still worried about her birthday party and why her former best friend isn’t talking to her any more. This is especially surprising since, at the end of the novel, we find out it is a flashback, written when Julia is 23 years old. The “not with a bang but a whimper” scenario seems plausible -- this is, perhaps, a comment on climate change, which most sane persons will agree is happening, but no one seems to know what to do to stop. In the novel, however, Julia’s passivity has infected every government and agency on earth; no one has any information, no one seems inclined to do anything at all in the end, except send a rocket into space saying “we were here” -- and, perhaps, conjure laser-clear recollections of the vague misery of middle school.
The line on the front cover of the advance copy says, “It still amazes me how little we really knew.” This can applied liberally to the entire subject matter of the novel -- we don’t know why children grow up, why supposedly stable human relationships dissolve and reform, why people have to die, what holds our literal and metaphorical North Stars in place in our literal and metaphorical skies. In fact, we take it for granted that these things have always been so, and will continue long after we’re gone, in perhaps deliberate ignorance of the role of human agency as a catalyst for change. But one of the central tenets of science fiction is that there will be a future, and that somehow human beings will be a part of it. I just hope, should this particular version of the end of the world be visited upon us, that the children of privilege will think of something to do besides watch.