Joan He’s sophomore novel gained a lot of buzz online when the cover dropped, and I have to say I bought into all the hype and rushed to preorder my own copy. I have two copies at the moment, and whether you buy the Barnes and Noble sparkly edition or the standard edition, you are definitely going to “oooo” and “ahhh” at the beautiful packaging to go along with the stunning text. So, to answer the question I’ve posed…yes, yes it totally lived up to the hype.
I almost never read the synopsis of books before I read them because I love going into a book with no expectations and no idea who is who until we meet them, and boy did that hit me hard. I was not expecting such wonderful commentary on the bleak future that awaits if we don’t protect our planet. In this book, there are two sisters, Celia and Kasey Mizuhara, who are separated. Celia is working to get back to her sister from an abandoned island, and Kasey is a stem prodigy who might be able to save humanity. In their world, natural disasters are at an all-time high due to climate change. People had to abandon life as they knew it to live in what is known as an ‘eco-city’, which protects those who protected the planet. However, these people have to live their lives in pods and mainly interact virtually.
The way that the population is split among the rich people who can afford to only live virtually and the people who cannot is so real. I don’t doubt that if there was a time to abandon Earth, most of the population would be left behind. I love that He has the Mizuhara girls deal with the environmental issues from different levels of comfortability because it shows how both corporations and individuals can be affected very differently so accountability is important. The Ones We’re Meant to Find really asks its readers to put themselves in this world that is not far off from our future and to consider how we can incite change because no one’s future is predetermined. There are also interesting relationship dynamics explored here, and I must say I really liked Actinium and Hero as companions for Celia and Kasey, respectively, because it was nice to read about them opening up while still sticking to their goals.
The novel is told in alternating first and third points of view, and it keeps you on your toes because of its fragmented nature. The conversations about environmentalism, being complicit, survival, hope, individual accountability, sacrifice, and the deep longing for one’s sister combined made for an intense read for sure. I especially love how Celia talks about her sister—she’s holding on to so few memories and yet that’s all she needs to keep herself motivated for three years. Although her time alone is filled with a lot of emotional, mental, and physical struggles, Celia’s narration is beautiful and heartbreaking. The whole book is written in such a lovely manner that I found myself noting entire paragraphs in my annotations and rereading lines because I loved them so much. While the sisterhood is at the heart of the story, it’s also paired with how humanity must adjust to this new way of life while still dealing with the ramifications of their own faults. The book has also been compared to Studio Ghibli films and resonates with similar themes. The technology in The Ones We’re Meant to Find is so interesting, and I find the world-building super cool because I’ve only ever read like 3 other sci-fi books, and as a newbie to the genre, I really like it! This is a slower book for good reason, and I urge fellow readers to give this book the time it needs to unveil all of its twists and turns, of which there are many!
As someone who is working on my own consciousness for the planet, I think this is an important read.
PRR Writer, Jackie Balbastro