Eleven-year old Julia lives a pretty normal life in a California suburb with her mom and dad. She goes to school, plays soccer, and has sleepovers with her best friend Hannah. Everything changes one Saturday morning when they wake to hear on TV that the earth’s rotation is slowing. That first morning, forever dividing life into before and after, the day is 56 minutes longer, and no one knows what to do. The slowing continues, with days and nights lengthening until they bear little resemblance to the time on the clock. The government – and much of the rest of the world – begins to live on clock time, sticking with their traditional 24-hour day, without regard to the sun’s unpredictable risings and settings. Some people, though, think it is healthier and more natural to adapt to the longer days and forget about the old 24-hour clock. Conflict increases between the real-timers and the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, for Julia, life continues in an unsettlingly normal way – her mom and dad go to work and she goes to school, sometimes in the dark and sometimes in the sunlight. As normal life worldwide continues to become more difficult, Julia’s personal life also seems to unravel. Her BFF is no longer there for her, rifts appear in her family, and everything seems turned upside down. Lonely and weighed down with secrets, Julia grows up during this strange time, enjoying a close relationship with her grandfather and pining after Seth, the cute boy at the bus stop, while all around her, the world changes in unthinkable and permanent ways.
The amazing thing about this book is how it juxtaposes the normal experience of growing up and being an adolescent against the unreal backdrop of this horrible global change. Though there is little action in the novel, there is ample suspense and tension. The story somehow manages to be both low-key and terrifying. I kept saying to my husband, “This is really scary,” though it is certainly not a typical thriller. Julia is a very likable and real narrator, struggling with completely normal adolescent crises, in the midst of a very abnormal environment. It is an engrossing, haunting story that stays with you long after you close its gorgeous cover.
269 pages, Random House
P.S. Given the young age of the narrator, this novel is one of those cross-over books that will likely be enjoyed by teens as well as adults.