The Age of Miracles and Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Okay, who could use a little break from all the Atlas Shrugged? Anna and Rebecca are both heroes, as far as I’m concerned, both for plowing through all those pages and for writing it all up so as to spare the rest of us from reading it. But I have to say that each time I read one of those entries, I am reminded how thankful I am to be reading enjoyable, non-creepy, non-propaganda books. So let’s talk about two of them: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

As a general rule, I don’t like books that feature children as the main characters. I’m not talking about young adult books here–those are almost always told from the perspective of a kid or teenager and those are great. I’m talking about “literature” by adult for adults that uses a child as a narrator. I find that way too often this is clever trick writers use to show off, and I find that it often comes off treacly and condescending. However, both of these books feature pre-teen young girls as main characters and although the stories are very different, they both work really well.

Walker’s book might actually be a YA book, but it reads to me very grown-up, and almost like a lengthy short story. It’s got a fascinating premise: one day the rotation of the earth starts slowing down, lengthening the days and nights and fundamentally changing life on the planet. The main character is a twelve-year-old girl who is trying to deal with typical middle-school friend/boy/parent issues, while everything we understand about time and the planet changes around here. It’s written as if the character is looking back from a much later perspective, but the story is not about what ultimately happens to the planet, it’s about how this girl experiences the changes. It’s sad and beautiful and disturbing–I couldn’t put it down.

Kinsey’s Three Word Review for The Age of Miracles: Sparse, elegiac memories.

You might also like: Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Last Survivors series.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette has been getting rave reviews all over the place and with good cause–it is absolutely charming. The main character in this book is also a middle-school girl, who is trying to figure out what has happened to her mother, who has disappeared. That description doesn’t sound charming, does it? But it is, I promise! It’s told primarily through emails, news stories, interviews, and other “primary” materials that Bee (the main character) uses to try to piece together what happened to her mother. Most of the action takes place in Seattle and the portrayal of the culture of the Northwest is pretty scathing, but each character, even those that start off as caricatures, end of being really interesting, complete people. I just loved the whole thing.

Kinsey’s Three Word Review for Where’d You Go Bernadette: Delightful, funny, wistful.

You might also like: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

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