The Cartographers

The Cartographers
Age Range
Release Date
January 31, 2023
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Struggling to balance the expectations of her immigrant mother with her own deep ambivalence about her place in the world, seventeen-year-old Ocean Sun takes her savings and goes off the grid. A haunting and romantic novel about family, friendship, philosophy, fitting in, and love from Amy Zhang, the acclaimed author of Falling into Place and This Is Where the World Ends.
Ocean Sun has always felt an enormous pressure to succeed. After struggling with depression during her senior year of high school, Ocean moves to New York City, where she has been accepted at a prestigious university. But Ocean feels so emotionally raw and unmoored (and uncertain about what is real and what is not) that she decides to defer and live off her savings until she can get herself together. She also decides not to tell her mother (whom she loves very much but doesn’t want to disappoint) that she is deferring—at least until she absolutely must.

In New York, Ocean moves into an apartment with Georgie and Tashya, two strangers who soon become friends, and gets a job tutoring. She also meets a boy—Constantine Brave (a name that makes her laugh)—late one night on the subway. Constant is a fellow student and a graffiti artist, and Constant and Ocean soon start corresponding via Google Docs—they discuss physics, philosophy, art, literature, and love. But everything falls apart when Ocean goes home for Thanksgiving, Constant reveals his true character, Georgie and Tashya break up, and the police get involved.

Ocean, Constant, Georgie, and Tashya are all cartographers—mapping out their futures, their dreams, and their paths toward adulthood in this stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding the strength to control your own destiny. For fans of Nina LaCour’sWe Are Okay and Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad Is Untrue.

Editor review

1 review
Coming-Of-Age Story
Overall rating
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Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
The connection between Ocean and her roommates, Georgie and Tashya, and how she relates to them changes throughout the story, and it plays a major role in Ocean’s growth throughout the book. Watching Ocean mature was one of my favorite parts of the book, although it comes rather late in the story. Her relationships with her roommates were also done really well, and both roommates have well-rendered personalities. Despite the roommates having a relationship with each other that had Ocean feeling like a third wheel for much of the book, they form a beautiful and supportive group for each other. Another strength is the way this book explores the difficult interactions that can occur between immigrants and their children who are first-generation Americans, especially struggles with communication.

The first three-quarters of the book are rather slow-moving, but the last quarter makes up for it. This story keeps mental health issues up front and center, with Ocean struggling with untreated depression and suicidal ideation, which can be triggering for some readers. Ocean communicates with Constantine through a Google document, and so much of their interactions are esoteric and pretentious, often not going anywhere productive, and it feels like a boring philosophy lecture. It was difficult to identify with Ocean at times, since she’s so in her head for the majority of the book, and the relationship between her and Constantine feels built on shaky ground.

Although this is a slow-paced story, it picks up towards the end and that definitely won points. There’s one intimate scene but it isn’t explicit, and it’s age appropriate, although the excessively obtuse communications between Ocean and Constantine, as well as the focus on suicidal ideation can be a bit rough for readers at the younger end of the range. Otherwise, this is a great read that explores that tough time where young people are taking their first steps towards independence, and deciding what they want to do with their lives after completing high school.
Good Points
-Diverse cast of characters
-Mental health representation
-Explores the struggle of children of immigrants
-Female friendship as a main theme
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