Review | The Cartopgraphers by Amy Zhang

Struggling to balance the expectations of her immigrant mother with her deep ambivalence about her own place in the world, seventeen-year-old Ocean Wu takes her savings and goes off the grid. A haunting and romantic novel about family, friendship, philosophy, and love.

Ocean Wu has always felt enormous pressure to succeed. After struggling with depression during her senior year in 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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I will always try to give books featuring these subjects a chance, even if they might be somewhat triggering. These are subjects that I feel should be explored, especially in a YA space, instead of ignored as they have in the past.

At times the story does feel very raw and real. I really enjoyed the relationships between Ocean, Georgie and Tashya. It was nice to see how they grew and bonded as the book progressed and the different struggles they each had.

I did like the Google Doc exchanges that were included, but there were times I felt there could be a little less of them. Still, I enjoyed the different ways the conversations could be interpreted and how different readers could see the exchanges different ways.

This was a great exploration of Ocean’s growth and journey through her gap year and recovering from past events. Definitely be mindful if suicide talk, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are triggering.

Happy reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s