Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Restoring Harmony

Joelle Anthony
Putnam Juvenille
In the year 2041, the world's economy has collapsed and the United States, in part due to its reliance on oil for so long, has fared even worst than most. Sixteen year old Molly McClure lives in a farming community in British Columbia, but when her pregnant mother gets sick and needs a doctor, Molly has to travel to the United States in order to bring her grandfather -- a doctor -- to the farm to help. A bit of bad luck in the beginning of her journey quickly leaves her with almost no money and even less understanding of how things work in the crumbling city. Adding to this is the fact that her grandfather doesn't want to go to Canada and the resourceful Molly has a struggle on her hands.

Though set in a bleak world where organized crime has more power than the citizens or government, Restoring Harmony has a plucky, almost cheery feeling to it thanks in part to the Pollyanna-esque Molly who finds a way to solve most of her problems by playing the fiddle. She's a resourceful and determined girl, yet in spite of this it was difficult to connect with her. Like many of the other characters, she lacked spark. Much of the cast populating this book felt a bit flat, as if their personality was entirely determined by the role they played in Molly's journey.

The story itself has an old-timey feeling to it, which could be confusing but was also kind of charming as it's easy to imagine Molly's world as a sort of post-apocalyptic Little House on the Prairie. The economy is mostly reliant on bartering and the technology, a little more advanced than our current technology, took a backseat to Molly's farm-girl inginuity. The world Joelle Anthony has written is easy to imagine as the trajectory of our own world and while this should be chilling, there's a certain comfort in the story, brought on by the old-fashioned feeling as well as the fact that none of the trouble Molly finds herself in ends up being that big of a deal. At no point in the story did I have any doubts that Molly would succeed. The trouble she finds herself in, even with a few bad guys in a Mafia-like criminal organization, is often hardly a stumbling block. Part of this is that Molly's a smart girl, but mostly she ends up being lucky as there always seems to be someone nearby to save her or, as happens once or twice, she's easily let off the hook. This gave the realistic world a very unrealistic story and, in spite of how hard Molly worked, gave the impression of her as a very naive and lucky heroine.

The relationship between Molly and "Spill," the guy who repeatedly helped her and her family also gave a different vibe than I think it was supposed to. It's quite a while before we know how old Spill is (20) and though Molly is 16, both her naivety and personality (as well as the book's writing) made her seem a lot younger. If I hadn't known her age I would have thought she was somewhere between 12 and 14, which gave the relationship with Spill more of a little sister-big brother feeling than anything romantic. The very young feeling, as well as the adventure aspect, made the book feel more suited to MG than YA. Though the book wasn't one I strongly connected to myself, I'd recommend it to fans of adventuresome Middle Grade novels as well as those who want a quieter type of post-apocalyptic fiction.


  1. I agree with everything you said -- I went in expecting doom and gloom and finished the book very discombobulated because the cover and the story clashed so much.

    I did have the opposite problem with Spill and Molly though, Spill felt younger than he was (maybe because I associate messengers with young boys?).

  2. Jennila
    Yes, exactly.

    Michael Offutt
    I LOVE the cover. So beautiful.

  3. Post apocalyptic Little House on the Prarie, eh? I got this book on clearance at my BAM, and let one of my friends borrow it. She felt the same way you did about it, except she had a lot more exclamations about how much she hated all the fiddle-playing.