Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review as a part of the street team book tour. All quotes are from an advanced copy and are subject to change in final publication.
One of my most (and least favorite things) about Black Mirror is how close it is to our current reality; the most terrifying episodes aren’t the ones full of violence and suspense, but rather the ones where you can clearly see what real life components have been exaggerated to the dystopian level, and yet the exaggerations aren’t as extreme as you would like. The Ones We’re Meant to Find gave me a very similar feeling, with just as many twists and subtle indications of a future we could find ourselves in, and an ending that left me reeling in a way that only Joan He can pull off.
Title: The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Author: Joan He
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
Source: Digital ARC via publisher
Age Range & Genre: YA, sci-fi, thriller/mystery
Representation: Asian protagonists
Content warnings: natural disasters, mass casualties, terminal illness, suicide, parent death (off-page), mild gore
Synopsis: 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.
But my dreams take me far out, to the sister still waiting for me across the sea.
Cee is one of those protagonists that you immediately root for. Stranded on a deserted island with no memories of anything except for her sister, Kay, Cee’s resilience is fueled by her desire to reunite with the only family she remembers. Kasey’s narrative shows how well-loved Cee is back home, and it’s easy to tell why. Cee has so much love to give and never gives up on Kay, even when she is given reasons to stay on the island and give up the struggle of trying to escape.
Meanwhile, Kasey is a STEM prodigy who prefers science to people. While everyone else frets over Celia’s disappearance, Kasey wonders why she’s not grieving the same way they are, and tries to solve the puzzle of why Celia went missing in the first place to atone for the disparity in emotions. Kasey is far more clinical and driven by logic, rather than love like Cee, and the difference between the two sisters and their narratives, as well as their vastly different environments, is a huge part of what makes The Ones We’re Meant to Find successful.
“I don’t think either of us came here by choice…and I think we have even less choice over the ones we’re meant to find.”
While The Ones We’re Meant to Find gets off to a slow start, Joan He masterfully creates an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, leading the reader to make one guess after another, only to be taken aback by subsequent twists and turns. Every time I started to think my theory would be proven correct, I had to shift gears and reconsider everything I knew about the book – and until probably the 60% mark, I was totally and completely wrong. Even when I was able to find out one or two of the twists, there was another lying in wait for me that I never anticipated. The second half of The Ones We’re Meant to Find is impossible to put down, and such a fun ride.
The world-building adds another sinister layer to the mystery surrounding Celia’s disappearance and the sisters’ quest to find each other. Subtle things, like the mention of protein cubes and nutrient IVs, weave together to form a dystopian society that is honestly terrifying, especially since the citizens of eco-cities are chosen based on their contributions to saving the planet in years past. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a story about two sisters’ individual searches, but their stories are a result of the catastrophe that humans have wrought upon Earth and the consequences of our collective actions. Cee and Kasey’s stories are heartwarming, to be certain, but they are also a warning about the future we could create for ourselves if we aren’t more conscious of how we treat the planet we inhabit.
“But what use was logic? It ended where love began.”
I am a self-proclaimed sucker for any and all books about sibling relationships. Kasey and Cee are polar opposites in terms of how they relate to other people and express love, and I really appreciated seeing a complex relationship between two sisters from both of their perspectives. I can’t expand too much without spoiling some of my favorite twists in the book, but their individual journeys are riveting to read.
Loving the world we live in and learning how to properly take care of it will take all of the heart of Cee and all of the brains and logic of Kasey. Alone, we might not have the entire solution, but if we put together the best parts of each of us, maybe we can prevent the consequences that cannot be changed.
About the Author
Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied Psychology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the Delaware River. Descendant of the Crane is her debut young adult fantasy. Her next novel, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, will be forthcoming from Macmillan on May 4th, 2021.
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