Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He

 The Ones We're Meant to Find

The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He
Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Hardcover. 384 pages.
About The Ones We're Meant to Find:

"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."

I am honestly at a bit of a loss with this one. I'm not sure what I think of it: part of me is really impressed by the beautiful, dream-like writing and the ideas that He played with, and part of me found it difficult to follow and immerse myself into. 
The Ones We're Meant to Find is set in a futuristic world where the earth is basically dying and becoming more and more inhospitable to humankind. To combat this, 'eco-cities' have been up into the sky where people can be protected from the devastation below, although it is only a portion of the population that is allowed this privilege. This book plays with some really interesting ideas about saving humanity, determining who is 'worthy' to be saved, and some of the morals and ethics involved in combating climate change and coming up with solutions to protect humanity.
The book is split with alternating perspectives between Kasey, or Kay, currently living in the aforementioned eco-cities, and Celia, who is currently living on a deserted island and has no recollection of how she got there, all she knows is that she needs to get back to her sister. I did not really connect with Kay's narrative at all. I struggled a lot with feeling like I could understand anything about Kay's personality, motivations, etc., and this really held me back from getting more involved in the story as a whole. She's supposed to be a big STEM genius, which I understood, but there wasn't quite enough hard emphasis on what she has done to get to that point for me to quite grasp everything she was capable of. I struggled a bit to get through Kay's chapters at times and found my attention just wasn't as enraptured by her narrative.

Celia, more commonly known as Cee, was easier to connect with and understand her world, but there was still a bit of a barrier that prevented me from truly getting inside her head. The island setting is obviously far easier to imagine than the eco-cities previously described, and I found these sections oddly calmly and beautiful in their sort of dreamlike-haze narrative style. Don't get me wrong, these chapters are perfectly readable and not hard to follow, but there is definitely something special present in He's writing that really comes through as we follow Cee (and the delightful robot U-Me) while she builds a boat to go find her sister. Cee seems to have a bit more in the way of personality, although even then, as I mentioned, there was something that still separated me from truly understanding her own true feelings about things–although perhaps she didn't understand her own feelings, either, which I think was probably intentional on the author's side. I could tell that He was trying to do something interesting with her two main protagonists the entire time, and I think she handled this aspect well–and I know that's vague to say, but I can't say more without giving anything away.

I found the world-building rather confusing and not fully explained– and not in a 'mysterious world' way that sometimes works in books, this was just difficult to understand. I was really intrigued from the synopsis to learn more about the eco-cities and how humanity was functioning in this new world, and although we do get some snippets into what life is like now and how things work, it all felt rather fractured to me and I the image in my mind stayed blurry about what things were like. We learn that people largely travel around via 'holo-ing' in order to cut down on people physically moving around and wasting resources, and this honestly just made for some confusing scenes and discussions for me. It also made it hard for me to understand just how these cities were set up.

As you may have seen from other reviews, there is a pretty big twist in this book, and it was one that I could tell was coming, and although I didn't know exactly what it would be, I definitely had some inklings that were on the right track and made it more fun to discover for some reason and see what I was right and wrong about. Obviously I can't say anything about the twist, but I thought it definitely caused the pace to pick up a bit and sort of drew me a bit deeper into the story because I was so curious to see the how's and why's be explained as we continued on with the story. The ending itself is also one that I think will be quite divisive, and even I'm not sure if I like it or am frustrated by it. I'm curious to hear what others thinks of it, personally.

The pacing of The One We're Meant to Find is definitely on the slower side, although it doesn't necessarily drag. It's not the most eventful story, but at the same time I had a strong awareness that He was constantly moving the book in a purposeful direction, and even if there were parts that felt slow, I could tell that important plot elements were being put into place that paid off as the story continued. And for its part, I read through this book in a little over a day, so it was obviously good at keeping me wanting to know more and captivated by what was happening–but I think part of that was also me continuing to read in hopes that I would start to understand the world more than I did.  
Overall, I've given The Ones We're Meant to Find 3.75 stars. This is honestly a rating that I spent way too long trying to decide on, and I'm still hovering somewhere between 3-4, but for as much as I struggled with certain aspects, I'm still thinking about it and the dreamlike writing that was oddly compelling, and finding myself wondering a bit about this concept and what could happen, which to me shows that there's definitely something about this book that I enjoyed. If you are interested in the premise, then I would encourage you to pick this one up to try. It's not going to be for everyone, and if you're looking for something fast-paced this isn't it, but if you're just curious about something new and a bit odd and are okay with the world-building being a bit hazy, then you might just enjoy this one.
 *I received a copy of The Ones We're Meant to Find courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.* 

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

1 comment:

  1. I just started this last night and I'm pretty confused already. I do love He's beautiful writing, but I suspect I will have some of the same issues you're having. We shall see!