Hello everybody. Today’s post is a spoiler free review of Joan He’s YA Science Fiction novel The Ones We’re Meant to Find, followed by an interview with the author. This post is also part of a book tour organized by TBR And Beyond Tours. You’ll find more information about the tour at the end of this post, as well as links to all of the other blogs that are also participating in it.
Content Warning: terminal illness, suicide, violence (including choking), death, death of parent (off-page), vomiting, large scale natural disasters and mass casualties, some gore.
Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.
STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.
My review of The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Cee and Kasey are both very compelling characters. While Cee’s chapters are filled with mystery and secrets that slowly unravel over the course of the book, Kasey’s perspective gives us a closer look at the futuristic society she lives in, as well as the socio-political issues of this world. I found both characters endearing and relatable in different ways and I enjoyed switching back and forth between their chapters.
Beautiful and dreamlike prose
The beautiful, lyrical prose, combined with the sci-fi elements of the book, gives it a deliciously dreamlike quality that I really enjoyed. And although the book is essentially a sci-fi, it’s not overly reliant on complex, technical lingo, which makes it perfect for readers who are either new to the genre or who don’t read sci-fi very often.
The near future and what it holds for us
While the futuristic society depicted in the book is much more technologically advanced than ours, it’s similar enough that the global and societal issues discussed in the book eerily echo the ones from our world. The book does not only focus on climate change and its impact on the planet, but it also looks at what the future of mankind could look like in an increasingly polluted world. The book also offers an interesting conundrum to both the characters and the readers: To whom does the responsibility of ensuring a better world for future generations fall? And is our generation selfless enough to shoulder those responsibilities and make those sacrifices for the ones who will come after us?
This book is my favorite new release of the year so far and I cannot recommend it enough! The writing is beautiful, the atmosphere is both futuristic and very dreamlike and the characters are amazing. Definitely check it out!
Interview with Joan He
QaS: In The Ones We’re Meant to Find, we alternatively switch between the points of view of our two main characters, Cee and Kasey. What did you enjoy the most when writing their dual perspectives, and what aspect of this narration style did you find a bit more challenging?
JH: I really enjoyed writing the beginnings and endings of each of their chapters and thinking of creative ways to flow them into one another. The more challenging part was probably trying to give them each the fullest story they deserved without detracting from the overall pacing. Kasey’s world, both internally and externally, is definitely more complex than Cee’s, seeing that Cee is living alone on an island and is missing most of her memories. I was aware of that difference in density from the start, and drafted Kasey’s side of the story very leanly in the beginning to make the reading experience easier overall. But by avoiding getting in too deep, I was also side-lining Kasey as a character when she is arguably the one driving the book. So beefing up her narrative was definitely something I revised for. It’s funny, though, because something Kasey says in the book is that everyone lives at the expense of someone else, and I totally felt that when writing the two sisters. More space for Kasey’s narrative took a little bit away from Cee’s, and vice versa. There really is no such thing as perfect balance. There is only a thing called the story you want to tell.
QaS: Despite being a sci-fi story, at the heart of it, the book is also an exploration of sisterhood. What was your inspiration for the strong bond that connects the sisters?
JH: The initial idea came to me in a dream: I had a very vivid image of a girl diving to the bottom of a sea, in search of something or someone. As I tried to figure out the “what”, my mind went back to some of my favorite YA Dystopians I’d read as a teen, such as The Hunger Games and Legend. They left a deep impression on me, particularly in how they signaled the relatability of their main characters. A single scene with a younger sibling, for example, could frame a protagonist as human and vulnerable before they went on to topple dictatorships or save the world. I wanted to subvert that. What if, I wondered, the girl in my dream is searching for her younger sister, but that sister is more than a storytelling device? And so came the sister story.
QaS: In the book, people have access to various futuristic technologies, such as ‘holoing’. This allows them to experience certain activities (like parties and fine dining) in a virtual reality setting rather than in real life, in order to live more sustainably. If you had access to this technology, what would you use it for the most?
JH: I’d probably use it for all my (non-existent) social functions. Meeting people, especially new people, is stressful for me much like it’s stressful for Kasey. So I’d love to reduce some of that friction by being able to just select an outfit in holo and go. I imagine holoing would also be handy for traveling to new countries affordably and sustainably, and without the added hassle of having to pack or plan a itinerary beforehand.
QaS: Following your first two published novels – Descendant of the Crane, which is a fantasy book, and The Ones We’re Meant to Find, which is sci-fi – are there other genres that you would like to explore in your future books?
JH: Speculative fiction is one of my favorite things to read and write, but one of these days I’d also love to write straight up historical fiction and a thriller set in the real world.
QaS: According to the book’s blurb, the thematic elements of The Ones We’re Meant to Find are a bit reminiscent of Black Mirror. Are you a fan of the show? What are some of your favorite episodes? (I’m still on season 2 and my favorite so far is ‘Be Right Back’ ^_^ )
JH: I’m a huge fan of the show! I discovered it after I first drafted TOWMTF, right when I was struggling to think of comparable titles to the story that wouldn’t give away the twist but would also highlight the intersection of tech and humanity. After I watched a couple of episodes, I was like “that’s it. This is the perfect comp title.”
Every episode of Black Mirror is so well done, but some particular favorites of mine are MOST HATED IN THE NATION and THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU. In the case of THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU, I really loved seeing how such a simple, intuitive advancement went on to destroy relationships, simply by exploiting the our ingrained curiosity and need to know.
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.
You can follow Joan online at the following: