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As Sure as the Sun will Rise
on 7 November 2016
The hours in a natural day lengthen bit by bit, and 11-year-old Julia's relatively sheltered life in a suburban neighbourhood along the coast of California turns topsy turvy. Walker juxtaposes the already seismic shifts in Julia's preteen stratosphere (whether she is navigating the treacherous social minefield at school, or getting a hold on her friendship with BFF Hanna, or suffering the pangs of her first crush on a fellow skateboarding classmate at the bus stop) with the planetary upheaval.
At turns a dystopian sf novel, and a family drama, Walker melds the two genres with a child's perspective (complicated by an adult Julia recounting this episode), which means that the reader never gets weighed down by opaque theories on the unexplained phenomenon. This could be a plus or a minus, depending on your persuasion. Rather, we share Julia's bewilderment and alternating moments of hope and despair as the earth suffers the slow devastation of the change in tides, and the magnetic fields are altered and radiation threatens to burn off exposed skin as the extended stretches of daylight throws off the life cycles of plants and animals and they begin to die off.
The majority of the population stick to clock time regardless of the length of the sunlight hours, to retain some control over their lives, while others stubbornly decide to abide by the rise and setting of the sun, and are called the real-timers. These people are deemed deviants and are soon either forced out of their neighbourhoods or willingly seek out new renegade communities. All well and good, except that a global phenomenon as earth shattering as this also seems suspiciously insulated within California, save some news reports Julia chances upon, usually second-hand from her high-strung mother, reduced to a two-dimensional caricature of a nail-biting, nagging and helpless character throughout most of the novel.
There are poignant moments in this novel, most often found in Julia's relationship with her parents and her grandfather, but my main quarrel with this book is that it moves at a snail's pace, arguably to keep pace with the gradually lengthening days being recounted. And while Walker is far from a mediocre writer, she relies a tad too much on foreshadowing as a narrative device, giving Julia a wistful yet sagely tone at the close of each chapter, signalling to the reader that the worst is yet to come, if she only knew better then.