Restoring Harmony, the debut novel by Joelle Anthony, is an immensely readable and accessible young adult dystopian novel. The book is set in 2041, and its dystopian world feels frighteningly close. If this book were an episode of Sliders, it would have been the one with the Azure Gate Bridge and the Giants winning the World Series some year they actually didn't. The set-up is rather simple: reliance on oil sunk the economy of the United States. There are no cars anymore. Goods don't travel between cities. Cities are abandoned since The Collapse. Communities must be self-sustaining. Travel barely exists as even train tracks have fallen under disrepair. Few can afford to pay taxes.
The heroine, Molly McClure, loves her island farming island in Canada. Her family is able to farm for a living and the climate is lovely. She knows her family and her town are fortunate, considering the plight of most in other areas. When her mother suddenly fears for the health of her parents, Molly begins a long trek to Portland, Oregon to see if her grandmother is alive and if her grandfather is alright.
One of the most initially fascinating things about this novel was a world without travel. Molly had heard stories about traveling, but she'd never done it. In this world, it was nearly impossible, but her parents told stories of traveling in their youth. I love to travel (hence the nomad in nomadreader), and it's amazing to imagine the difference in our everyday life even this simple detail would make.
This novel almost fell into three acts for me, and while I adored the beginning and the end, the middle one hundred pages dragged a bit for me. The middle read more like a young adult novel than the rest of the book. I was frustrated by Molly's actions, and the events seemed both obvious and annoying slow to unfold. I never contemplated abandoning the book, but I was disenchanted and felt let down. I was emotionally unengaged. The final third of the book, however, built on the enchanting premise of the novel's beginning and brought surprise, intrigue and emotional revelations. In the end, I loved this book; I was sad when it ended.
Ultimately, it was an immensely smart, enjoyable and meaningful novel with a brief slow spell. It's a novel aimed at young adults, but it only reads like a young adult novel in a few parts. It's a near-future dystopia, and the setting provides ample ideas for discussion. Although the story is from Molly's point of view, the reader gets an idea of how the young and old, connected and unconnected, and rich and poor feel in this world.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Release date: May 13, 2010 (pre-order it now)
Source: ARC from the publisher via Around the World Tours