In alternating, timeline-shifting chapters, He (Descendant of the Crane) traces an expansive near-future narrative that centers Asian sisterhood and family. Three years prior to the novel’s start, Cee awakens on an abandoned island amnesiac, colorblind, and alone except for a bot. She recalls only the absence of her younger sister, Kay, and feeling an impulse to get off the island and find her. Now, Cee has finally constructed a boat that may give her the chance. Meanwhile, in the wake of climate disaster, the highest ranked humans—“calculated from the planetary impact” of their behavior and their ancestors’—have moved to eco-cities, “conducting nonessential activities in the holographic mode.” In one such city, Kasey Mizuhara, 16, daughter of an eco-city architect, considers the absence of her sister Celia, 18, recently lost at sea. Banned from science for previously breaking an international law, Kasey nevertheless pursues a lead to access her sister’s memories. Interweaving Cee’s immediate first-person voice and Kasey’s more removed third-person narration, He crafts an intricate, well-paced rumination on human nature, choice, and consequence. Ages 12–up. Agent: John Cusick, Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management. (May)
From the Publisher
"I fell in love with this haunting, futuristic world and the sisters searching for each other in it. Joan He's words will stay with you long after the final page." - Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Skyhunter
‘In a climate-ravaged future, the love between two sisters is the only hope for humanity's future. This is sci-fi at its best: floating cities, kindness and desert islands!’ Lauren James, author of The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—If you tossed Lost, Black Mirror, and The 100 in a blender, you'd pour out something similar to He's sophomore novel. This science-fiction thriller pits the deep love of a sibling bond against the high stakes of Earth's impending climate disaster. Stranded on an ominously abandoned island for three years with a strange case of amnesia, Cee sleepwalks every other night closer and closer to the sea—and her sister. She knows Kay is on the other side of the ocean, if only she can find a way to cross it. Kasey lives in an eco-city, one of eight clean energy bastions against the environmental disasters that plague the landlocked territories, leaving her stasis pod only when necessary and living primarily through the virtual reality of her Intraface. While Cee fights for a way free of the island, Kasey grapples with the politics of the sky-built eco-cities and the ranking system that brings refugees in from the toxic land below. At turns whimsical and gut-wrenching, He's writing drives home the high stakes and unreliability of our narrators, setting the stage for a tense and twisting plot. Her characters are crafted with distinct voices and arcs, and must confront the best and worst of the human condition. Kasey and Cee are Asian, with more diversity included in supporting characters. VERDICT A first purchase for library collections. He grafts deep moral and ethical questions to a page-turning premise, making this sci-fi standalone an excellent book club selection.—Emmy Neal, Lake Forest Lib., IL
An apocalyptic future tests the bonds of love between sisters.
In this future world, climate change and other disasters have brought people together from different countries into eco-cities that levitate above their regions. Sixteen-year-old Kasey Mizuhara disassociates herself from people, moving through the world like an alien or ghost, observing her human companions. She prefers the cool comfort of logic, and the only one she loves and looks to for direction is Celia, her older sister. Cee, on the other hand, loves too much, continually pushing boundaries and breaking rules. Yet the sisters admire each other for their complementary strengths. As the world crumbles around them due to human-made disasters, Kasey strives to uncover the mystery surrounding Cee’s disappearance while Cee survives, marooned on an island and driven to search for Kasey through her wavering memories. While the science-fiction setting often does not feel fully realized enough to anchor readers in this world where the residents of the floating eco-cities carry out most of their nonessential activities in holographic mode, the story is a compelling exploration of humanity and its tendency toward selfishness and self-destruction. The pacing is maddeningly slow at first, but midway through, the action accelerates, racing to a breathless end. Readers who puzzle through this world will find a curious struggle that may answer the question of whether humanity is worth saving.
An intriguing foray into a devastating future—and yet one where hope abides. (Science fiction. 14-18)