Friends, let it be said that Joan He is a master wordsmith. Her words resonated within me, swept me into the world straight away and kept me hooked until the very end. This is a critically important and innovative story addressing a very potential future if the climate crisis continues without intervention, and makes me want to spend some extra time outside because I take it for granted.
"The dominos had been set centuries ago. One quake, and they all fell."
The Ones We're Meant to Find is science fiction, and I'd classify it more on the hard sci-fi realm in that the technology of this near-ish future world plays a big role in the plot and it isn't explained all at once. It's a story of technological innovation out of necessity, but also delves into the psyche of human nature to explore why society reaching this point is basically inevitable. The author doles out information about the world slowly so the reader is never buried in an infodump, but also provides context clues about everything so the reader can piece everything almost completely together before it's confirmed in text. Some readers may struggle with not understanding the technology or status of the world, especially if they don't read a lot of science fiction, but trust that it will be explained and that at its heart this is a book about the bond between two sisters.
"Obviously, my sister isn't here. But the Kay-of-my-mind is right: I am forgetting. When I dream of her, it's in vibrant color, unlike the gradients of gray of my monochrome days. But everything is hazy when I wake. The details merge. The colors fade."
There are two distinct voices in the dual narratives, and let me tell you that Cee's POV will pull at every single heartstring that you have. Cee and Kay are so different and their chapters' tones reflect that. I adore Kay's pragmatism and honestly want to protect her from feeling 'defective' or 'wrong.' A common thread between the perspectives is loneliness: Cee all alone on an island trying to find her way back to Kay, and Kacey disconnected from the people around her. The loneliness is almost a character in its own right, an amorphous thing lingering just out of view of our main characters. Also, it needs to be said that I love Hubert.
"Alone is an island. It's an uncrossable sea, being too far from another world, 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."
The writing is simply beautiful and the world is so interesting, fully realized, and honestly hauntingly prescient. I adore the world created: I think it's such an imaginative and logical human explanation to the climate crisis. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather recycle and give up my car so I don't have to live in like 50sqf in a tower in the sky and have to do 33% of life through VR. One of the most compelling things though is how people held onto their selfishness by bring so resistant to small personal sacrifices. It reignites my desire to do what I can for the environment; even if it's but a drop in an ocean, it's better than nothing.
"None of us live without consequences. Our personal preferences are not truly personal. One person's needs will deny another's. Our privileges can harm ourselves and others."
Unfortunately, there's something about the dual perspectives and the way the information about what happened with Cee & the worldbuilding is parsed out that didn't quite work for me, and I can't put my finger on it. There's a lot of moving parts to follow, and the author intricately plotted everything incredibly well, but my need to pick apart everything as I go and understand it definitely played a role here. That being said, I loved the sense of accomplishment I felt time and again when my guess was confirmed! But I did find the pacing of the book to be a little slow at times; the book really picks up running full-speed at 60% and everything slides into place then.
"The problem with oceans? They always seem smaller from the shore."
If you are a reader who likes wrapped up endings, I recommend you adjust your expectations now so you aren't blindsided by the book's open ending. The main reason that this is a 4-star read for me instead of 5-stars is my overall enjoyment of the book was brought down a little bit by the ending because... it kind of feels like it's missing an ending altogether. Where the slower pacing and reveal about halfway into the book felt satisfying to read, for me the ending is far too open to interpretation for my liking but that's a personal preference thing.
"As long as you exist, your hope will, too."
All in all, this is a poignant and heartbreakingly beautiful book that will tug on your heart. It's ultimately a story about sisterly love, but it's also about human nature and forces the reader to acknowledge the climate crisis and how important it is for each person individually to give up a little freedom for the good of everyone else. While the ending left questions about our characters unanswered, The Ones We're Meant to Find is a book I adore and recommend to fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction. (It's funny because this is similar to how I felt about Wilder Girls, only in this book I'm wanting for the character closure instead of worldbuilding closure.) It's a book that left me a little emotionally devastated, but still full of so much hope and a story I will cherish.
Content Warnings: climate crisis and apocalyptic themes, death, depictions of grief, loss of a parent, physical violence, suicidal thoughts, suicide, terminal illness
eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley for my honest review. This has not affected my opinions of the book nor the content of my review. Quotations are from an unfinished proof and are subject to change upon final publication.