Thursday, October 23, 2014

On A Clear Day - or The Call To Action That Wasn't

bookcover of ON A CLEAR DAY by Walter Dean Myers

I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

On a Clear Day is one of those books that I wanted to love so much more than I did.

In the year 2035 the world is controlled by corporations. A group of teens decide to basically start a revolution, to topple the corporations, and just maybe change the world. Sounds like a great concept, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, for me, it just didn't work. The book begins well. We are introduced to a group of kids who are inherently cool. They each have their skills and their quirks and you believe that they just might do what they set out to. I liked the characters and enjoyed the unorthodox way the author introduces them.

However, the book suffered for me on two fronts.

First, the world building. Frankly, the world building here is thin. I got that this was near future, but I never really bought into it. It felt like today with a few 'let's make this seem futuristic' trappings. I think I needed more history - more backstory - to explain why the world was the way it was. The entire time I was reading, I was never in the authors world in 2035. Maybe 2035 was too near and a bit harder to build out? I'm not sure, but it just didn't work.

The second place it failed was in the philosophizing. I love that the author is asking teens to think about the world and where it could end up. I love that he wants them to think about how they can change the world and what their values are.

But…it's still a book and it's still supposed to be entertainment. There's a lot of talking in the book. Speeches and discussions which seem more like an opportunity to get the author's view across than to move the story. I would rather the author had simply written an essay explaining his views, and let the story move.

So will teens read it and get something out of it? Some will - the more introspective and already politically minded ones might enjoy this and run with it. But as a call to action to ordinary teens, it fails in the execution, and I fear many will stop reading merely a quarter of the way through.

I liked where the author was going, but unfortunately, I don't think he ever got there.


  1. This is a different kind of dystopian future YA novel. There are no fights to the death for the amusement of the masses, no imprisonment of young people with mazes or any other similar situation. This book is better for older teens and above because it is in a lot of ways more subtle than many dystopian future books and requires the reader to think about justice, the power of money in the world and how the world should work.

    The first half of the book doesn't have a lot of action so teen readers used to books like Hunger Games might get bored. There is a lot of talking and strategizing and arguing about the best way to achieve their goals. The sub-plot involving the young North African terrorist was the part that felt least plausible to me because his agenda was not so completely apparent.

    As an adult reader, I didn't love this book but I thought it had a lot of good themes. It may be a good book for parents and teens to read together and talk about in the context of world news because there are many subjects for discussion.

    I received an ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

  2. Outlaw and Sandy, it's interesting to identify the similarities and differences in our perspectives on this book. The following is my review, prefaced with a note that I, too, received an ARC from the Amazon Vine program to use in reviewing the book.

    Walter Dean Myers really "gets" teenagers, and doesn't hesitate to present them with a book that urges them to grapple with such weighty concepts as economic globalization and the various ways one might try to influence social change when one has limited resources.

    Unfortunately, although the premise and characters of On a Clear Day have the potential to be a springboard to reading and thinking critically, the actual book is a near miss. The overarching issue here is the gap between concept and execution, and it is painful to be cautionary about a book that really could have been a touchstone for a lot of adolescents.

    The general story arc, for example, is solid and presents a lot of opportunity for an engaging, thought-provoking tale. However, continuity and weighting of plot points both are troublesome. Similarly, the concepts for most of the major characters are sound, and if you reduced them to thumbnails, you'd be excited to meet them and experience the unfolding story alongside them. Somehow, it is almost as though Myers imagined these characters so fully that they are complete in his mind's eye and thus do not grow and develop on the page.

    The exception that illustrates this point is the main protagonist, Dahlia. At times, it felt as though she might spring off the page and pace the room, gesturing and talking. This sense was amplified when Dahlia described another character as being "simple" because he lived in absolutes. She said that she envied him, adding that she is nothing if not her "in-betweens." I would have loved reading about a character like that while in my teens, and appreciate that Myers created her.

    Given the above, I can only cautiously recommend this book for adolescents. As noted, the concept is sound, and Myers's respect for his teen readers is admirable. Unfortunately, the structural gaps are likely to pose an insurmountable problem for a number of readers.