Overall rating: 4/5
Genre: Young adult science-fiction, dystopian, mystery
Read if you loved: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, Black Mirror, Westworld
Content warnings: Environmental disasters, apocalyptic themes
I have not been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it. I was going to take a minute before sitting down to write this but then I realized the whole point of this blog is for me to use it to process my thoughts. So, here we go. The Ones We’re Meant to Find was far more twisted and psychological than I had anticipated but I’m so glad I got to experience its wild ride.
One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.
Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.
Okay, we need to take a moment for this cover before I go ahead with my opinions. I typically don’t love humans on covers – I recognize this is very much a *me* issue but they just throw me off and disrupt my own imagination of the character in question. That being said, I loveeeeee this cover! It’s so stunning and intriguing, which is how I’d sum up this book as well.
Given just how complex this novel is, I think the best way to go about this review is breaking it up into parts. I had such a hard time rating it because there were some elements I was blown away by while others left me wanting a little bit more. Let’s start with the world building and general concept of the novel, which was fantastic. I was engaged from the first page because of how intricate and well-realized this futuristic world is, from the scientific vernacular (Joules is my new favorite word) that bleeds into normal conversation all the way to the actual human experience i.e. the intraface, pods, and quite literally everything else. That opening scene from Kasey’s POV at the party? It took my breath away when it ended, and I was hooked from that second. I enjoyed the way He introduces readers to the world – it definitely requires a lot of attention, and if you skim, you might be a bit lost – but it’s more “show” and less “tell”, which is my favorite approach.
The characters are equally engaging. The story flips between Celia in first person and Kasey in third person, and both of them had such distinct voices and interesting storylines that I didn’t find myself preferring one over the other. I wanted more of each, and that’s an amazing accomplishment by Joan He, because I typically gravitate to one POV/story over the other. There are also so many clues in the text, in the differences in writing style, all the way down to the chapter numbers and how they’re formatted that goes to show the sheer amount of thought and refinement that went into this work. And it really does pay off because I was so hyper-focused while reading, paying attention to every detail for a hint of what is to come.
Since this book is so new, I’m going to keep the discussion around the story itself pretty short and spoiler-free, but this is where my issues with the novel come into play. I loved the writing and the first half of the book, and I would say that I thought it was going to be a solid 4-5-star read at the midway point. However, things start to get really wonky, really fast. It’s not that I minded the plot events itself – I was fascinated by the way things unfold and come together – but the execution wasn’t the best at certain key turning points. It got a little confusing and rushed, and I wanted so badly to just have a few more pages to really flesh out things. The easiest examples of this are the sudden, intense relationships that develop (not the one between Celia and Kasey, that one’s great), and I just couldn’t buy into it as much as I wanted to.
I’m going to stop here because I don’t want to say anything that takes away from the experience of reading this book. Despite my issues here and there, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was not able to put it down. Lovers of science fiction, psychological thrillers, dystopian, and thought-provoking themes (specifically re: technology) will enjoy this read. If you have read The Ones We’re Meant to Find, let me know what you thought because I could dissect this story for a while!