Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Summary: Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. It’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

Genre: science fiction, young adult, fantasy, dystopia
Rating: ★★★★

The Ones We’re Meant to Find has been on my tbr for a while, and I’m admittedly kicking myself a little bit for waiting until now to read it, but I’m so happy I finally did.

In regards to the 2022 Asian Readathon, it checks off multiple boxes: a book by an Asian author, a book that has a cover worthy of googly eyes (seriously, forever swooning over this cover art, it’s g o r g e o u s), and a book that was highly recommended. I had multiple friends who read this book last year, and I heard nothing but good things about it. I was genuinely shocked to see a lower rating than I expected on Goodreads, because this story blew me away.

When the story began, I struggled to get into it because the reader is ultimately tossed into the story with little to no explanation of what’s happening. We know Cee is stranded on an island and has been for years, and we know her sister Kasey is in some sort of dystopian future world that’s being destroyed due to climate change. There isn’t a whole lot of world-building or really any kind of explanation until later on, so it was difficult to sink my teeth into this right away.

The chapters are told in alternating perspectives since the girls are apart, and I found myself tempted to skim Kasey’s chapters because I was so much more engrossed in Cee’s life. The story for both girls began to pick up about halfway through, and from there it was a wild ride to the end. Suddenly, Kasey’s story arc was just as surprising and empowering as Cee’s, despite their situations being so vastly different. I was anxiously awaiting their worlds to collide, and this story went in such a surprising direction.

This was a daunting read largely because of the subject of climate change. The story never tells us quite how far into the future it takes place, but at times it read like a bad fortune. There are megaquakes, tsunamis, and countless category five hurricanes. Hundreds of millions of people die as a result. The idea of most of the population living in eco-cities where people are required to spend a third of their time in stasis pods and attend work and school virtually through a hologram was an interesting solution.

However, this is not a perfect world. Everyone is defined by their rank in society, and only certain ranks are allowed to live in these eco-cities. The rest of the population is left to fend for themselves in a world on fire, where physiological illnesses, once cured, begin to spike again with population density. In an attempt to reduce overcrowding, hologram requirements exceeded the recommended maximum, which causes a major mental health decline. The government cannot collectively agree on a solution, causing riots and assassinations. It is a truly terrifying world to read about. I usually read books to escape what’s happening in the real world, but this story brought me back to reality plenty of times.

Despite all of this world building we do eventually see, I was left wishing for more. There were situations that were only briefly hinted at, relationships that were mentioned but never fully fleshed out. I was hoping for more in-depth answers and histories. Honestly, this book could have been 200 pages longer with the right information, and I would have given it five stars. It just felt a little bit lacking.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this story, because it was fascinating and unique. I knew this would not be a happy story, and it still broke my heart a hundred times over. I’ll be honest and say the writing style and prose is what really captivated me. There were so many little one-liners scattered throughout like, “logic ended where love began,” or “not all molecules were meant to bond,” or “I am vast as an ocean, the only sea I don’t have to cross, and for the first time in a long time, I remember what it feels like to drown in myself.”

This is a story that, despite its flaws, will certainly stay with me for a long time.

Alone is an island. It’s an uncrossable sea, being too far from another soul, whereas lonely is being too close, in the same house yet separated by walls because we choose to be, and when I fall asleep, the pain of loneliness follows me as I dream of more walls.

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