MacKids Spotlight: Joan He


Meet Joan He, the author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find, on sale May 4th! In this futuristic tale, a 16-year-old girl wakes up on an island with no memory of anything except for her sister. Her mission: she must use her STEM skills to get off the island, find her sister, and help humanity.

Joan shares her inspiration for the story here + request a digital ARC on NetGalley and start reading now!

When describing The Ones We’re Meant to Find, what’s your elevator pitch?


Joan He: The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a scifi-fantasy about two sisters, Cee and Kasey. Cee has been stuck on an abandoned island for just over three years. Kasey is stuck too; it’s been three months since her sister went missing from their home, a technologically advanced floating city that protects its populace from a polluted, climate-change wrecked outside world. Will Cee ever make it off the island and be reunited with Kasey? And does Kasey have any reason to believe that her sister is still alive? All answers lurk in the sea separating them.

What inspired you to write The Ones We’re Meant to Find?

Joan: I was an avid reader of YA dystopians as a teen, and absorbed many of the genre’s storytelling conventions. Later on in college, when I had this dream of a girl diving to the bottom of the sea, in search of something, my mind returned to one convention in particular, where a younger sibling is used to humanize the protagonist. Establish the protagonist’s humanity early on via this shorthand, and they can go on to save entire worlds yet remain “relatable” in the eyes of the reader. But what if I wanted to use this cue in a different way? What if, I wondered, the girl in my dream is searching for her younger sister, but that sister doesn’t actually need to be saved? And so came the heart—and the twist—of the story.

Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.

Joan: I’d always been told by adults that I had a knack for drawing and painting, but I never once considered the idea that I was decent at storytelling until my 4th grade teacher read one of my short stories and said, “You should try writing a book.” So I did—I wrote a forty page “book” about a girl and her pet rock. It’d be many several more years before I attempted anything longer, but I still think back to this teacher who first believed in me. Thank you, Ms. Lienert.

What is the first step in your creative process?

Joan: For an idea to be viable to me, I need to know the twist. Once I have a twist that I must write or be haunted forever by it, then I start brainstorming the plot in more detail along with the characters. I also like to compile a Pinterest board and Youtube playlist around this time to figure out the story’s tone.

What advice would you give to young writers? 

Joan: If you’re serious about your art, then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I say this as someone who started writing young, and was told to slow down and gather more life experience first. Now that I’m older and supposedly more experienced, I can certainly see the ways that my work has changed and gotten stronger, but I don’t think all improvement is linear. There’s a particular rawness to your early works that’s difficult to replicate, and if the best art is whatever conveys the truth, then at any age, and at any stage, whatever you’re creating is priceless because it’s true to the you of that moment.

What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?

Joan: WARRIORS. Yes, the cat book. My friends and I were all so obsessed with it that during recess, we would role-play as cats of the different clans and go to “war” over our territories in the jungle gym. 


Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that stories were her favorite kind of art. She studied psychology and Chinese history at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the city waterfront. She is the author of Descendant of the Crane, her young adult debut novel.



The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
Ages 12-18
On Sale May 4, 2021

Perfect for fans of Rick Yancey and Marie Lu, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a sci-fi fantasy with mind-blowing twists, ready to burst onto the YA scene, from the critically-acclaimed Descendant of the Crane author, Joan He.
Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The Metropolis—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.

Praise for The Ones We’re Meant to Find:

★ “Interweaving Cee’s immediate first-person voice and Kasey’s more removed third-person narration, He crafts an intricate, well-paced rumination on human nature, choice, and consequence.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“I fell in love with this haunting, futuristic world and the sisters searching for each other in it. Joan He’s words will stay with you long after the final page.”—Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Skyhunter

A melancholy, heartbreaking story of a young woman who loved her sister enough to survive years of horrors in order to get back to her… It’s painful stuff, beautifully written, and He gives that suffering the space it deserves in this reflective novel.”—The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books (BCCB), Recommended Title

An intriguing foray into a devastating future—and yet one where hope abides.”—Kirkus Reviews

Read more author Q&As here!