Very disappointing, despite a promising opening. It is a ridiculous story that is increasingly badly told. If you don't want to know the key plot point, beware of reading the back cover of some editions. :(
Although often classed as sci-fi, I think that's more because dystopian fiction is often categorised that way, rather than anything inherently sci-fi in the book itself. In fact, it doesn't even feel dystopian for a while. In many ways, it's more of coming-of-age novel: coping with loss of innocence and accepting responsibilities.
The narration is very conversational (which is fine).
SETTING AND PLOT
It is initially set in a co-educational English boarding school, in a country house. There are the usual friendships and fallings out, and it has children as young as 5 (maybe younger), but in many ways it seems quite idyllic. However, there is an understated menace from the outset, and the school is oddly obsessed with creativity.
The pupils' vagueness about their eventual fate perhaps shadows that of the reader. Mention is made early on about carers and donors and they are told of "people who shudder at the very thought of you - of how you were brought into the world and why"
, but it's only towards the end that the details are made explicit. I think I might have enjoyed the book slightly more if I'd had to work it out for myself (rather than read it on the cover).
The middle section is set in "the cottages" where the leavers go to live for a couple of years or so, and the story narrows to be more specifically about Kathy (the narrator), Ruth and Tommy. This exaggerates the contrast of the first part: they can indulge their hobbies (reading and sex, mostly), living comfortably without the need to work, but they are increasingly aware that soon things will change.
The final section follows the three of them when they leave, and this is where the book completely lost any trace of believability for me. The underlying story is too full of holes, even within its own dystopian world. I just do not believe anyone would have the means to go to such extraordinary lengths when there are far simpler, quicker and cheaper solutions. Also, why have carers travelling round the country to be with different donors, rather than each carer being based in one location? That is implausible and not even necessary for the story!
I was also a little surprised that they were as accepting as seemed to be the case (not totally accepting, but pretty much), but I suppose being born and raised in what was effectively a brainwashing cult is very powerful means of making people accept their fate. Any that did successfully and permanently break away would be hushed up and not necessarily mentioned in the novel
Finally, it goes from bad to worse, with the cheap James Bond/Blofeld trick of having one character near the end explaining everything in a rush.