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The Waning Age

Review

The Waning Age

In the present day of S.E. Grove’s THE WANING AGE, people no longer feel anything. Due to unknown reasons and phenomenon, people lose all of their emotions starting around their teens in a process called “waning.” Society is now made up of adults without any emotion or feelings whatsoever, and kids who are just waiting for their own waning to occur. The only means in which one can experience emotion are synaffs, synthetic drugs that replicate the feelings of emotions, ranging from blissful highs to intense fear.

In San Francisco, Natalia Peña works at a hotel as a housekeeper, while at home she takes care of her little brother, Calviño, a bright kid who’s unusually strong with his emotions despite being of the right age for waning. When Calviño undergoes a series of unusual tests at school that result in him essentially being kidnapped by RealCorp, a monopolistic corporation that manufactures synaffs, Natalia is desperate to get him back. However, to go up against one of the world’s largest companies is no easy feat. Relying on the help of a few friends and foes, and along with her own set of martial arts skills and keen eye, Natalia sets off to take back her brother from RealCorp, and uncover the mysteries behind her own family past and the origins of waning.

"The world-building is fantastic. The way [Grove] describes the state of society and regular encounters through the lenses of an ordinary citizen in this extraordinary world pulled me into the reading and engaged me with a sense of excitement and curiosity."

Historical fiction author S.E. Grove is no stranger to alternate reality universes, as seen in her previous work in The Mapmakers Trilogy with its emphasis on a different late 19th century world populated by familiar yet different societies and cultures. In THE WANING AGE, looking more towards the future than the past, S.E. Grove asks what the implications are of living in a world where all of our feelings, good or bad, are gone, and what we are willing to do or sacrifice for the people we deem important.

With this book, there were a lot of things Grove did exceptionally well. The world-building is fantastic. The way she describes the state of society and regular encounters through the lenses of an ordinary citizen in this extraordinary world pulled me into the reading and engaged me with a sense of excitement and curiosity. With her careful attention to detail and tidbits of daily life, this strange society comes alive. I could easily visualize what is what, going on where, why the people dress or act the way they are, the environment of a place and more. I also found most of the characters are well-written and sound realistic for the setting of the book. Calviño, with his own experiences throughout the novel and dominant beliefs juxtaposed with that of the main story and the other characters, is intriguing and isn’t like other “damsel in distress” tropes that are common in these types of books.

Equally intriguing is how the absence of emotion and its effects on people are portrayed. Without emotion, people rely on different beliefs and values to guide them and their actions. I found what people choose and why to be a really captivating part of this book. Some rely on books and history to guide them (and their fashion choices), while others use their moral compass. Lastly, the themes of the novel regarding love, family and hope and how Grove explores these ideas in-depth are noteworthy. I found myself thinking about them when I flipped that last page over.

However, THE WANING AGE does have its fair share of issues. The writing at times seems a bit off and awkward, like it doesn’t really fit in with the tone of a situation. The metaphors and descriptions Grove uses to characterize something like Natalia’s internal monologue occasionally took me out of the novel and took away from my enjoyment of reading. Also, Natalia herself feels a bit like a “Mary Sue” character. The fact that she’s a brilliant fighter who’s also really smart and cunning seems to take away from the intensity of certain situations. Again, she’s not entirely perfect, but the fact that she seems to be good at nearly everything she does takes way from immersion a bit.

Overall, THE WANING AGE is a strong novel, perfect for readers looking for a strong action and suspense book without romance. And, with a length of 333 pages, it’s a medium length novel that will keep you reading on. If you delve into this book, I can promise you won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Timothy R., Teen Board Member on February 13, 2019

The Waning Age
by S. E. Grove

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2019
  • Genres: Family, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0451479858
  • ISBN-13: 9780451479853