The story of two sisters in a climate-ravaged future, separated by an ocean, desperately trying to find each other…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Ones We’re Meant to Find, a new YA science fiction novel from Joan He—publishing May 4th with Roaring Book Press.
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years and seventeen days without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet—and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.
Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.
The bedroom door behind me sighs open. I don’t turn because it can be no one else, and sure enough, U-me rolls next to me, something in her arms.
A purl-knit sweater embellished with iron-on pugs.
My heart catches in my throat as I remember my first days here. Waking up on the shore, naked as a newborn, drawing air into my deflated lungs. The water has never been warm, but that day, it must have been freezing. My teeth chattered so hard that my vision flickered as I crawled toward the house on the sand-submerged rocks.
M.M. saved my life. Well, her sweaters did. I yanked the pug one from her closet, right after the moths flew out. It was thick and warm, and all I cared about.
It took a full day for the shivering to stop. A week to remember my name. Then the other pieces came back. Memories of colors I can no longer perceive. A sister back at home, wherever home was. We were close—I knew that in my blood. She must have been worried sick when I disappeared. Maybe I’m forgetting her, but what if she’s also forgetting me?
My heart hardens as I stare at the sweater. I thought my enemy was the sea. But it’s this house. These sweaters. Even U-me. They’ve let me grow comfortable.
I can’t grow comfortable.
I leave the bedroom. The living room. I ignore the mess of taros I’ve made in the kitchen and head out to the porch again. U-me trails me. She watches as I use a piece of metal scrap, foraged from the Shipyard, to etch one more line onto M.M.’s porch rail. It’s striped with tally marks of all the days that have passed since I first washed up.
With any luck, this will be the final mark.
“Stay” I order U-me, dropping the scrap metal. “Good,” I say, backing down the porch steps as U-me blinks from the deck, sweater draped in her metal arms. “Just … stay.”
I swallow, turn, and jog to Hubert. I push him into the water, clamber aboard, and switch on his motors.
I don’t look back.
The sun sinks into the horizon as we zoom toward it. It’s beautiful, I recall. Sunset. Honey-hued and apple-skinned. But it’s hard to retrieve images from the past without feeling like I’m running through dry sand, and soon, the charcoal skies dim to black. The moon brightens slowly, like an antique filament lamp. We hit a calm patch of sea a couple hours later, and I turn off Hubert’s motor to save some battery before resting against the supply locker, a spare sweater folded beneath my head. The stars in the sky are the last things I see, and then the sun is rising, rinsing the waters around me to a powder gray. I start the motor again.
I mark the days on Hubert’s gunwale. I drink some water, confident it’ll rain soon. I nibble on taro biscuits and try to keep up the conversation.
“Bert, love. Do you think we’re going the right way?”
“Want a hear a joke? Okay … guess not.”
“Want to hear it anyway? Why don’t oysters give to charity? Because they’re shellfish. Get it? Shellfish? Selfish? Okay, I’ll stop now.”
“Why don’t you ever define my curse words?”
“Joules, you’re worse than U-me. Why can’t you say something?”
I stop talking to Hubert after a week, because I run out of water.
I had to make a choice: Pack enough water that it’d slow Hubert down or hope for rain. I’d hoped for rain. On the island, it rains at least twice a week.
But there’s no rain. Until there is.
I’m trying to nap—the only way I can ignore the desert growing in my mouth—when something plops onto my head. At first I think it’s gull poop, but the skies are quiet. I sit up. Another plop, and I almost weep with joy.
Rain. Fat droplets falling out of the gray heavens.
My face tilts back and I part my lips, catching the cold, sweet drops on my tongue. Then I dive for Hubert’s locker and wrestle out the empty water bin—not so empty when the first wave crashes into us.
For a stomach-dropping moment, we’re shoved under. Bubbles burst before my eyes—I think I scream—and then I’m coughing, eyes stinging with salt and rain, pelting down, because we’ve resurfaced, thank Joules, and I’m clutching to Hubert’s gunwale as the ocean thrashes, waves blacker than ever, and among all that black is a speck of white.
My water bin. Washed overboard, quickly swirling away from us. My taro biscuits, too, dusting the waves like dandruff. The door to Hubert’s locker is gone. Torn off. My supply pack is nowhere in sight and I’m sitting in more seawater than not.
I almost expect to hear U-me, defining my word in response. But she’s not here. It’s just me and Hubert, volleyed from wave to wave, a toy to the sea. I turn off his motor, hoping it’ll help. It doesn’t. Think. Lightning splits the sky and rain lashes into my face and a wave looms over us out of nowhere, casting us in the shadow of its maw.
Thinking time is over. I start the motor and seize the backup oar, rowing with all my might.
Slowly, we move.
In the wrong direction.
The wave curls us into its grasp. Crushes us.
My ears pop as we plunge. But I still hear it: the scream of tearing metal.
Excerpted from The Ones We’re Meant to Find, copyright © 2021 by Joan He.