On an ordinary Saturday morning in October, 11-year-old Julia learns that the Earth’s rotation has diminished by nearly an hour and is continuing to decelerate. The eerie effects of ‘the slowing’ ripple throughout the novel: birds lie dead on lawns due to a stronger gravitational pull and, with more hours of sunlight, inhibitions are diminished and rash decisions emboldened. Eventually, ‘the syndrome’ – a disease characterised by dizziness, nausea and fainting – is born.
Despite these potentially apocalyptic circumstances, Walker’s protagonist is much more preoccupied with the emotional casualties of the sixth grade. The author sets her scene with assurance and gentility: ‘This was middle school, the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when voices dipped and dove.’ As new minutes extend the length of each day and the sun scorches her San Diego community, Julia can’t get over the widening distance between her parents, her skater-boy crush and her best friend’s betrayal. Amid all the pressure, epiphanies about friendship, love and mortality manifest.