The Waning Age by S. E. Grove


Goodreads: The Waning Age
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: February 2019


Natalia Peña lives in present-day California, where children begin to lose their emotions, or “wane,” around the age of ten.  Natalia waned years ago, but her younger brother Cal shows no sign of waning himself.  When a pharmaceutical corporation kidnaps Cal for testing, Natalia begins preparations to save him.  But, if she has no emotions, why is Natalia willing to do anything to get her brother back?

Star Divider

The Waning Age sounds like yet another dystopian novel, based on the summary.  Natalia Peña is living in a world void of emotions and a large corporation has kidnapped her brother for their own nefarious purposes.  However, it becomes clear fairly quickly that S. E. Grove is not writing a dystopian novel, but a character-driven drama.  How waning started remains largely speculative and Natalia thus has no need to turn rebel and take down the system that oppresses the people.  No, Natalia is concerned only with her brother.  She loves him, even if she is not supposed to be able to.

The focus on family makes The Waning Age feel more reflective than the average book about emotionless societies.  Even though the plot is full of action (and Natalia is pretty good at martial arts), Natalia’s love drives the story, not her fists.  The plans Natalia makes to rescue her brother seem largely straight-forward and much of the action comes, not from unexpected twists, but from the enemies she makes.  This leaves room for Grove to develop the history and theory of waning, and to explore various characters’ opinions on the phenomenon and their reaction to it.  Natalia’s reaction in particular is very poignant.   She knows her brother wants–even needs–her to respond emotionally to him, but she struggles to figure out how to do  that for him.

The main weakness in the book may be the seemingly superficial theory proposed for the phenomenon of waning.  (Spoilers ahead.)  Though no one knows for certain why waning occurs, the leading theory seems to center around the idea that people lost empathy.  Specifically, they lost empathy because they focused too much on their phones.  While I agree that relationships do suffer when people are not fully present, it seems a little too easy to blame phones alone for people’s ability to disconnect.  I would have like to see this idea explored more fully, not given as an almost off-hand explanation.

The Waning Age is a beautiful story about family and the love between siblings.  The book’s focus on the character relationships sets this book apart from the standard YA fare.  Some may be disappointed that the story does not contain more explosions or bizarre plot twists, the kind of high-stakes drama that has almost become its own trope.  But the story’s avoidance of trendy writing makes me suspect this a book that could last.

4 stars

10 thoughts on “The Waning Age by S. E. Grove

  1. Miri ♪ Book Dragoness ♪ says:

    Yay, Krysa! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s definitely a character-driven one. The exploration about loving someone despite been emotionless was pretty interesting!


    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I liked how this was done because no one ever seems to pull off a convincing emotionless character because, well, people react to stuff and you think you’d need emotion for that, generally. But Grove does a nice job of considering both sides: that maybe the “emotion” is just social conditioning, but also that there really is emotion, just unacknowledged.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mgerardmingo says:

    I’ll have to check this one out! Based on the description, I would be most interested in seeing how the book explores the relationship (if there is one) between emotion and motivation/reason. I know that Hume would say that desire of some sort is needed to motivate us to act, but I’d be curious to see whether this book would agree with him. It at least seems interested in raising the question.


    • Krysta says:

      There are some interesting discussions about whether the characters seem to be acting with emotion simply because they are acting logically or because they have been trained to do so. For instance, in high school, they largely tossed out the old curriculum to focus on instilling behaviors that will keep society together. So when Natalia’s brother opines that Natalia loves him, others counter that maybe it just seems that way because she takes her duty to family very seriously. She’s risking everything to find him just because she was socially conditioned to believe families stick together. I thought the book was very well done and considered a lot of issues readers might think of.

      Liked by 1 person

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