I was pretty skeptical about this book before I started it. Actually, when I listed my next five reads in November’s Rearview Mirror last week, I mentioned that I thought this book had a high DNF possibility. This book has been languishing on the TBR since June 2014 when Sophie reviewed it. I’m the type of person who doesn’t always enjoy being mind-blown by books (so often that’s code for “completely illogical leap off a cliff”), but Sophie and I enjoy a lot of the same books, so the fact that she really liked this one kept it on the list.
Last Sunday was cold and windy and drizzly and the husband and I spent almost the entire day lazing about the house. I picked up this book and thought I would read the first chapter or two so I could say that I had given it a chance and then move on. Except once I started reading, I basically couldn’t put it down. I was drawn in from the very first paragraph:
Her name is Melanie. It means “the black girl”, from an ancient Greek word, but her skin is actually very fair so she thinks maybe it’s not such a good name for her. She likes the name Pandora a whole lot, but you don’t get to choose. Miss Justineau assigns names from a big list; new children get the top name on the boys’ list or the top name on the girls’ list, and that, Miss Justineau says, is that.
!??!?!?! And for once in my life, the present tense narrative actually made sense. It was used so very deftly – pushing the plot forward, making every more urgent, intense, uncertain. Present tense is not for every book, or even for a lot of books. But every once in a while, it makes a book almost magical, and that’s what it did here.
I read about 3/4 of this book on Sunday, devouring it in huge chunks. I had to work Monday morning, but when I got off, I didn’t get anything useful done around this house until I had finished the book.
This is one of those rare books where you really ought to know as little as possible going in, so I won’t tell you much of anything about the plot. However, I was quite impressed by the way that plot moved along, and the way that Carey gives us just the right amount of information at just the right time. The third person narrative rotates between some different characters, so you see multiple perspectives of the story and of the world Carey has created. This is especially interesting when several disparate characters are forced to work together.
In a lot of ways, this book is a discussion about what makes us human and what we should do with that. And while I didn’t really feel like this story answered all the questions it raised, it was still a very thoughtful kind of book.
I’ll say that I didn’t agree with the way this book ends. Melanie makes a decision with far-reaching impact, and I didn’t feel like it was her decision to make, no matter whether her decision was right or wrong. I’d love to hear from anyone else who has read this book, whether or not you agreed with the ending.
I didn’t enjoy every word of this book. There were times that I didn’t agree with the direction the story went, and while I didn’t mind some of the moral questions being left unanswered, there were still a few times that I felt like the story itself had some loose ends. There was also a scene where the main scientist describes in what I felt was incredibly unnecessary detail exactly how she does a dissection of the brain. Seriously, I do not need three pages of play-by-play on how to remove a brain.
Speaking of the main scientist being female, the discussion questions in the back of this book were amazingly lame. My personal favorite was asking whether or not I would have liked this character better if she was male. Asking me if a person who is a total ass would be more likable as a male is honestly rather insulting.
On the whole, though, I think I’m going with a 4/5 for this book. While I had some quibbles about some of the story – and definitely with the ending – it was overall a pretty un-put-down-able book, and a recommended read… as long as you have a big chunk of time to devote to it, because you probably won’t want to put it down…