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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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The Age of Miracles: A Novel

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

Am I just getting old, or does it seem like literature these days is being written for a younger audience? Like half the new books being published for the “literary crowd” could easily be grouped into the YA section? From a marketing perspective it makes sense; titles with the most phenomenal sales in recent years have targeted younger audiences. That's where the money is. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised after hearing that Walker received a million dollar advance for The Age of Miracles that it read like a YA novel.

Let's stop for a moment here and talk about this million dollar advance. A million is 1 followed by six zeros. It looks like this: 1,000,000. With a dollar sign in front of it it looks larger. $1,000,000. See. Now in the world of books there are several million dollar authors. You may have heard of some of them. Stephen King. J.K. Rowling. James Patterson. Danielle Steel. Then there's Karen Thompson Walker. Now it's only an advance, and compared to what Patterson or King make one mil is a small amount. But we're talking about a debut novel here. I've talked with some fairly well established authors whom I thought had a good book deal. What do they make? About $120-150,000. Of course the agent gets a large chunk of that and that's for a book that took three years to write, so in the end they're making $30,000 a year. But hey, we're not writers for money.

(A million dollars for a debut novel. Expect much. Expect little. But for that much money, you should expect something.)

Because of these seven figures I was curious, but I shouldn't have been surprised by what I found. Like I stated previously The Age of Miracles could be a YA novel. I'm not sure why it's not. It is better written than your average YA, with some expertly crafted scenes and sentences, but its still just a really good YA novel. As we're all learning, however, there are fine lines between all the genres and subdivisions we've assigned to art. So what if it's YA? I would've gone into it with a slightly different point-of-view, but in the end it didn't change much.

Another line Age of Miracles crosses is into the sci-fi genre. This book is a little sci-fi. The earth's rotation is slowing down. I'm not sure I buy the science of such a sudden slowing—wouldn't such a change be a little more catastrophic?—or the logic shown by earth's inhabitants of the novel—really, would we make such a big deal about people living “off the clock”? Then again, perhaps we would. Regardless it works, especially for a “YA novel.”

Despite its ominous message The Age of Miracles is a fun read. Julia is a fabulous young protagonist with a coming-of-age story that is believable and resonates easily. The “what-ifs” come out in this book and that alone may make this a big hit with book groups. Age of Miracles is one of the better books I've read this year, but it was nothing phenomenal. It has potential to show up on several “best of” lists at year's end, but my vote would go to other novels that really gave a literary punch. Now, Best YA Novel of 2012? That one is a strong maybe.