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REVIEW | "The Waning Age"


Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

Published in Jan. 21, 2019 by S.E. Grove
Imagine being unable to feel emotions. Unable to feel love, compassion, excitement, anger and a whole slew of emotions which we have no words for, except artificial doses delivered by drugs. “The Waning Age” is a thoughtfully written dystopian novel about a society much like ours where upon reaching a certain age, people lose their ability to feel emotions, known as “waning.”
Set against the backdrop of San Francisco’s skyline, the story follows Natalia Pena, a young adult who has already “waned,” and her beloved younger brother, Calvin. As Calvin is waning later than other children, a major pharmaceutical company takes Calvin away from Natalia for lab testing, and Natalia is desperate to get him back.
Natalia is your typical dystopian heroine: strong, witty, and throws a good punch. She has just the right amount of willingness to break rules. Her encounters with “Fish,” societal outcasts and criminals who enjoy wreaking havoc on society because they lack emotions, always end up with her outmaneuvering and defeating them in style despite being outnumbered.
The novel shifts every so often from Natalia’s perspective of her high-stakes mission of rescuing Calvin to Calvin’s perspective being kidnapped. His captors conduct experiments on him which reveal his ideas on emotions are and why adults still have a little of them, contrary to scientists’ beliefs. Since Natalia is unable to directly express her affection for Calvin after waning, having Calvin’s innocent and sweet personality shown from his perspective helps readers sympathize with both siblings’ struggle to be reunited.
The theme of having no emotions was also generally well fleshed-out, prompting readers to think constantly about where emotions come from and why they are so important for us. This is especially fascinating when Natalia interacts with minor characters who adopt a persona modeled off fictional characters such as from Jane Austen’s work, to mimic a natural, human-like behavior despite lacking real emotions. And even though some may find that the explanations are not entirely convincing or even pseudo-intellectual, it still did not affect the overall plot. The world building in “The Waning Age” is highly realistic and laden with tons of detail that make the book such a page turner.
The only major disappointment in the novel was the ending, which was a major plot twist that felt jarring and poorly executed because Natalia’s extensive efforts of espionage did not directly lead to her rescuing her brother. Still, “The Waning Age” accomplishes a great deal with its exciting plot and lovable characters.

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