The Age of Miracles: The Coming-of-Age Dystopian Novel for Adults
If it weren’t for all the past critical praise for The Age of Miracles, it might have been a hard recommendation to sell. A coming of age story set amongst a backdrop of a dystopian, dying world? Surely we’ve all heard this story before. Thanks to The Hunger Games and Divergent, most book readers probably aren’t in a rush to read another story like it either. But The Age of Miracles’ approach to sci-fi and blossoming teenagers is anything but cliche. If anything, its speculative nature proves that sometimes human beings do strange things when faced with things they can’t control.
Despite being a story about the “end of the world,” the novel moves at a lingering pace. The calamity in Karen Thompson Walker’s novel can’t be killed or destroyed in a war, and so the events that unfold echo the actions of its characters, who move with uncertainty against an inevitable black death. In Miracles, the disaster is the slowing of Earth’s rotation, resulting in longer days that have catastrophic effects in both nature and biology.
The disaster is told through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl living in suburban California. Through her eyes we see the panic of her parents and neighbors and the stark apathy of her peers. But like most normal 12-year-old girls, she also still goes through things most teenagers go through: revolving friendships, school crushes, and peer pressure. These parts of the novel might feel too “YA” to mature readers, but Walker approaches these events with an honesty that feels more nostalgic than juvenile.
But there’s more to Miracles than just the doom and gloom of gradual human extinction. Walker explores how people, when faced with probable death, start to change. People start abandoning their responsibilities, start shedding old identities, and start planning for a life that might be cut short. And yes, if you’re wondering, the parallel theme of changing adolescence and the change of a dying world is definitely intentional.
One thing Miracles has over those more popular dystopian books is that life isn’t about “endings.” People change, people don’t change, but they don’t always have control over their paths–and that’s the most chilling thing of all: Miracles is about the lack thereof.