Robots in The Ones We’re Meant to Find | Book Review


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Author: Joan He
Published: May 2021
Publisher: Text Publishing
Pages: 375 [paperback]

Thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review

First thoughts

Wow okay this was good in so many ways! This is also fast becoming a wildly dividing book with so many people saying no and others raving about it. I’m definitely in team yes! Let me tell you why, and if, you should read this.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find

First and foremost, this is scifi so if you’re coming here wanting fantasy and are not a fan of scifi, this ain’t for you! This is a futuristic story of two sisters and the complexities of what it means to be human.

So we have Celia who is missing and presumed dead from the beginning of the book, after she disappeared at sea. At least, that’s what her sister, Kay, thinks. Kay is a no-nonsense character who presents on the spectrum, though that side of things is never discussed.

Celia has her own chapters, however. Her chapters are about her stuck on and Island and trying to get back to Kay. She’s all on her own, living in an adandoned hut with a small robot called U-Me who I loved. So the reader impatiently waits to find out how these two storylines come together.

This world is on the brink of an environmental disaster and collapse, with the entire history of earth’s polluting activities finally reaching peak and resulting in toxic water, megaquakes and other natural disasters.

To combat this, Kay and Celia’s family established a system whereby people who rank highly (1 being the highest) can live on eco-cities. These float about the ground in the air. Your rank is determined by how small a footprint you leave on the earth, AND how your ancestors lived. So anyone with family history in mining is screwed basically.

The whole book toys with the idea of who deserves to live and who gets to choose. People living on eco-cities enjoy perks of living safely and have good health, and they’re the ones calling the shots. So you get to enjoy the moral greyness of people trying to be just, but usually being clouded by selfishness.

What to expect

Whew okay that was a long recap. There’s just SO much happening in this book. This is a low-hitting scifi (so nothing as complex as the likes of Christopher Paolini’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars or anything by Peter F. Hamilton, for example). It’s on the same “complexity” level as Claudia Gray’s Firebird series.

Robots feature heavily and are involved in key moments that are pivotal to the direction of the plot. Science is present, but simple and not overwhelming (no physics here, tyvm).

Ultimately, you’re about to read a story that really breaks down what it means to be human. It’s a story that questions beliefs that people hold dear, and it challenges the defining aspects of being “good”.

My one complaint?

An open bloody ending. Dear god I hate open endings. This does not have a solid and conclusive finale, HOWEVER, it’s not unforgivably open ended.

The plot really speeds up and turns this into a page turner shortly after midway, and if you pay attention I think it’s clear enough what the author was angling for with the conclusion. It’s not impossible to work out could have happened and is one of the most palatable open endings that I’ve read.

As a tiny side note, I enjoyed Hero, but really would have liked to see his role grow even more important by the end. Nonetheless, he was crucial to the story.

Things I loved

Honestly I loved Kay’s character. Her struggle to recognise and respond to “normal” emotions added something to the story that tipped it into a category of its own. I loved it, and it paralleled the robotic themes throughout the book as Kay questions how human she is when she doesn’t function on the same emotional levels as others.

I also freaking loved U-Me omg. Such a funny little addition. She’s a robot who works on a scaled rating system. She can’t say yes or no, or respond with answers. Only with strongly agree to strongly disagree. I don’t know, I just found her great.

Final thoughts

A really enjoyable read, but could have had a better ending. I was fascinated by the concepts that were tackled and I’m excited to read more by He!

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