Content Warning: terminal illness, suicide, violence (including choking), death, death of parent (off page), vomiting, large scale natural disasters and mass casualties, some gore.
One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars with sci-fi scope, Lost with a satisfying resolution.
Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.
STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those committed to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.
Interview with Joan He
1. Was the drafting process for The Ones We’re Meant to Find different from that of Descendant of the Crane?
Speed-wise, DOTC took a year to draft whereas TOWMTF took only 2 months. Another difference is that DOTC was actually the book that forced me to become a plotter. Anyone who’s read it can probably understand why writing it without a plan was NOT a good idea. But even for DOTC, I knew the middle from the start, as well as how I wanted it to end. Same for TOWMTF. So the overall approach didn’t really differ even though TOWMTF is in a different genre.
2. What is one thing you would like readers to take away from TOWMTF?
I hope readers come away with more questions than answers, because anything less than that doesn’t feel reflective of the society we live in. Here’s one question, for example: Cee and Kasey are very different characters. Does one deserve to live just because we relate to them more? It’s hard to care about everyone equally, and yet it’s the people we do not see ourselves in—the people we sometimes do not see at all—who are most impacted by our actions, or lack thereof.
3. If you had to pick one song to describe Cee and one song to describe Kay what would you choose?
Ah so fun!
For Cee: LOVE by Lana Del Rey
For Kasey: DEEPER CONVERSATIONS by Yuna
4. I have had the wonderful pleasure to be a part of Hesina’s Court, how has it been working with your street team during the pre-launch of this novel?
It’s been awesome. This author thing is pretty wild and can get kind of lonely, so it’s great to have people along with me for the ride. Also, so much of publishing is getting news and keeping it a secret for months. I love getting to share developments with the court before the rest of the world. Thank you so much for being a part of it!
5. How did the plot of TOWMTF come to you?
The initial idea came to me in a dream: I had a very vivid image of a girl diving to the bottom of a sea, in search of something or someone. As I tried to figure out the “what”, my mind went back to some of my favorite YA Dystopians I’d read as a teen, such as The Hunger Games and Legend. They left a deep impression on me, particularly in how they signaled the relatability of their main characters. A single scene with a younger sibling, for example, could frame a protagonist as human and vulnerable before they went on to topple dictatorships or save the world. I wanted to subvert that. What if, I wondered, the girl in my dream is searching for her younger sister, but that sister is more than a storytelling device? And so came the big twist and plot of the story.
6. The world-building in this novel was truly phenomenal, what was your process in creating the setting for both Cee and Kay?
Because of the plot and the initial inspiration mentioned above, I knew that the sisters had to be separated from one another, and also close to the ocean. I had the idea of Cee being on the island first, and then thought about what kind of world make sense for Kasey. Given the natural disaster and climate change aspect of the story, a city levitating in the sky seemed fitting and pragmatic while also fulfilling the anime lover in me. Then other aspects—such as the virtual reality living—got layered in during revisions.
7. I understand this is your first novel with science fiction elements (wonderfully written, might I add). Can you describe how the writing is different/the same between the science fiction elements of TOWMTF and the fantasy elements of DOTC?
To me, it’s all world-building, which means I approach both about the same. I try to find out the “core” of the world by figuring out what the people believe in and how those governing philosophies affect their behaviors and actions.
I will say that a struggle with scifi I’ve found is that it’s hard to feel like I’m writing something “original”. Once something is invented, it kind of enters the scifi canon. For example, VR tech is nothing new. Neither are tiny computer microchips that are inserted into the brain. Many of the micro-elements in a scifi world feel recycled to me because I’ve already seen it done, so the challenge is really putting everything together around a core philosophy that feels unique.
8. When did you know that you wanted to start writing novels? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
When I was 13, I really got into writing Spirited Away fanfiction and ended up with a fic that was 140k long. Because of it, I knew I had it in me to complete a novel length work. But it’d be a few more years before I tried my hand at a story of my own. None of my peers, after all, were writing books!
The push and shove for me came in the form of Nanowrimo; it was really encouraging to see so many other people working towards their books, and that sense of community propelled me to write 50k on an original piece of fiction when I was a sophomore in highschool. After Nanowrimo, I made myself finish the story even though I knew it sucked. That’s probably my first piece of advice to writers starting out: finish something just so that you know you can. And if it matters to you, make the time. Keep plugging. No matter if you’re writing your first book or your tenth, there’s no secret to it beyond putting down word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page.
Meet the Author
Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied Psychology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the Delaware River. Descendant of the Crane is her debut young adult fantasy.
Meet the Cover Artist
Aykut Aydogdu was born in 1986, Ankara – Turkey. He started studying Fine Arts at high school and graduated from Faculty of Fine Arts – Graphic Design. He has various works on commercial illustrations, magazine covers, movie posters. His surreal figurative works are mainly concentrated on the dilemmas of the daily life.
Meet the Cover Designer
Aurora Parlagreco is an Associate Art Director at Macmillan Children’s Book Group, previously at HarperCollins Children’s Books and Quirk Books.
Her work has been featured in the New York Book Show as well as by Spine Magazine, Paste Magazine, and The Casual Optimist.
She can usually be found hanging out in bookstores, watching baseball, and/or drinking vanilla milkshakes.
Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries or to say hello!
Check out my other blog posts here!
Synopsis Content Warnings: Main characters’s mother has died four years earlier and her father is critically injured and hospitalized for most of the book. Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. She’s spent her entire life training to hunt the horrific creatures known […]Read More
Synopsis Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, […]Read More
Synopsis Debut author Arnée Flores spins an exciting and original tale about hope in even the darkest of places, perfect for fans of Shannon Hale. The Kingdom of Lyrica was once warm and thriving, kept safe by the Firebird, whose feather and song was a blessing of peace and prosperity. But the Firebird disappeared, and Lyrica […]Read More
On-page Representation African/Black Albinism Disability Nonbinary Pan/polysexual Trigger and Content Warnings Ageism Bones Colourism/discrimination Emotionally manipulative relationship Fire Misogyny Pain Pregnancy and miscarriage/abortion Violence, blood and murder Synopsis A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic. In […]Read More
Synopsis Content Warning: protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging […]Read More
Synopsis Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion? Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in-training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful […]Read More