Saturday, April 17, 2010

Restoring Harmony by Joëlle Anthony

Heading off on her own to a big American city might have been a fun adventure for sixteen-year-old Molly McClure in the good old days before the Collapse, when nearly all the oil ran out; but in 2041, when family calamities strike all at once and Molly must leave her isolated farming island in Canada for the very first time, the world she meets is anything but fun.

Hey! Peak oil is one of my, er, favorite subjects. Not that I want us to run out of oil, just that I think it’s a real possibility. So of course, a fictional treatment of the situation intrigued me. Author Joëlle Anthony is also a former schoolmate; we attended the same high school in Portland, Oregon.

Restoring Harmony follows Molly from her home in Canada to the Portland area; her grandparents live in Gresham, just outside Portland. Molly has to travel alone to Portland because her grandmother has been ill, but due to spotty telecommunications, they don’t know whether she’s still alive or whether her grandparents need help. And Molly’s mother is nearing the end of a high-risk pregnancy and the local doctor has died, so they want her grandfather, also a doctor, to move to the island to help out.

This novel is full of action, as Molly moves from one crisis to the next. Sometimes it feels like the crises are resolved too quickly and easily; I would have been happy to delve further into the problems of a post-oil world, although the pacing may work just fine for young adult readers.

Anthony’s detail and description are very good; her descriptions of Portland are spot-on. In fact, a day after reading this novel, I rode MAX (the local light rail system) into downtown, and seeing all of the graffiti and damaged or abandoned buildings along the rail line, it wasn’t hard to imagine Portland descending into disrepair pretty quickly, something like this:

From the wide windows I could see an old highway on one side, rutted with potholes and so overgrown that saplings had struggled through the cracks. A few people walked along it, and I saw a couple of carts and horses, and more cyclists than we have on our entire island.

Another thing I appreciated about this novel is that it doesn’t involve teenage sexual activity, which seems to be a feature of so many contemporary young adult novels. There is a romance, but the focus of the story is on the action – getting to Portland, getting food and money, getting back to Canada.

Restoring Harmony is a good first novel. Again, I’d like to see Anthony go a little deeper into the crises, and not resolve things so easily (one technology solution in particular made me uneasy; as a sci-fi reader it didn’t seem plausible to me). But it’s an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it especially to young adults who like reading about dystopian futures.

Restoring Harmony will be released May 13, 2010, and is currently available for pre-order. This review is part of an ARC tour through Around the World Tours.

Friday, April 2, 2010


This week I've been visiting my sister Wendy (we live far apart) so we had the pleasure of discussing the Fuse #8 Top 100 Children's Novels countdown each morning. (Before I got to Wendy's, I was in Portland, where I spent an afternoon exploring Beverly Cleary's neighborhood with my mom, sister Kathleen, and eldest niece. My family is pretty great.) Last night we came up with what we are absolutely certain will be 1-7 (though we are not certain about the order). Anything else we will consider a major upset.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (#5)
The Giver (which was indeed #7 this morning)
A Wrinkle in Time (#2)
Holes (#6)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (#3)
Charlotte's Web (#1)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (#4)

I have read and liked all of these books (two of them, Mixed-up Files and Wrinkle, were on the top ten list I submitted), so I'm OK with this list. But Wendy and I were feeling melancholy over the books that are not on the Top 100 list at all, such as Anastasia Krupnik (which is, at least, referred to in the post about The Giver) and Wendy's beloved The Diamond in the Window.

Here's the updated complete list of what's in the Top 100 so far.