Guest blogger Collen Seisser explores how 3 narrators inhabit an “emotionless” world in this dystopian novel tinged with mystery.
Imagine a world where people lost the ability to feel emotions. One day they feel, and the next day they don’t. In Natalia’s world, this is reality, and like others her age, she can no longer feel any normal human emotions.
As a teenager, Nat was put through rigorous training to learn the necessary societal norms and cues so she could set out to become a functioning adult. And she succeeded– though she is poor, she functions very well, has a steady job, and she takes good care of her younger brother Cal.
Cal is not like most kids his age, however. He is at the waning age, but he is still highly sensitive and emotive, and in fact, his emotions seem to be intensifying! Not surprisingly, Cal’s highly emotional states prompt scrutiny from his teachers and classmates, and soon, Nat is notified that Cal will be tested and observed by the pharmaceutical company, RealCorp. At first, this testing does not seem to be a big deal, but when Nat is notified that RealCorp has taken Cal out of school for further tests, the action in this story ramps up. Nat can’t find out where exactly her brother has been taken and who actually took him. She is also notified that the Director of RealCorp has adopted Cal via a loophole, since Nat and Cal were being fostered by family friends after their mother’s suicide
Nat is determined to get Cal back and will let nothing stand in her way!
This story is full of twists and turns. It’s a really well told, high-stakes mystery. Not only does a listener want to figure out how Nat will rescue her brother, but along the way you want to learn two things:
How did this society come to exist?
Are these people truly emotionless?
There are three narrators for this production, though Kyla Garcia is the primary narrator as Nat. And Garcia’s narration is anything but flat and emotionless! There are epic fight scenes at high intensity, there are emotion-filled memories explored, and there is a gut-wrenching rage as Nat comes up against obstacle after obstacle. Garcia also effortlessly includes authentic narration with dialects other than English.
The other two narrators do not really work for this production, though I can see why they were included: the story leaves Nat’s perspective occasionally and changes to Cal’s (Sanchez) which includes back and forths with the scientist Dr. Glout (Morey). Unfortunately, Cal’s voicing is too mature; actually, Garcia’s voicing of Cal is more true-to-life. Dr. Glout was spot-on, though! Old, eccentric, and a little kooky!
Honestly, the premise of this story is the hardest part about listening, since it doesn’t necessarily work with a narrator. On the one hand, we are made to believe that Nat has waned and has no emotion, but how does a narrator portray that? (Aside from being flat and robotic, which no listener would enjoy!).
The concept of “emotionless” humans gets further explained as the story progresses. Theories are explored that try to explain that environment and condition can cause some humans to care for those around them in ways that would be called love. This would be what Nat experiences when trying to get her brother back. However, as I was reading this, I had the thought that I would have an easier time reading and engaging with this story, since then I could more easily accept the idea that characters may not have emotions. Listening was a bit confusing because the text was performed by a very good narrator, and I could hear the emotions in her voicing.
I would definitely recommend this listen, with the understanding that listening to this story could throw off a person’s potential concept of the world Grove creates. But Kyla Garcia’s performance was very engaging, and the story left me on the edge of my seat looking forward to when I could return to listening!
The Waning Age, by S.E. Grove, narrated by Kyla Garcia, Julio Sanchez, and Arthur Morey. 9 hours, 51 minutes. Listening Library, 2019.
Colleen Seisser is the Collection Services Manager at the Aurora Public Library in Aurora, IL. She is a current Board Member at Large on the YALSA Board of Directors and she also reviews audiobooks for Booklist Magazine. Colleen attributes ramping up her obsession with audiobooks from serving in various roles on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee from 2012-15. She has been listening non-stop since then! When not listening, Colleen is either crafting, gardening, or jammin’ on her planner! Find her on Twitter @colleenTS81