On the last day of school, one of my favorite students (I know, no favorites, but how can it be helped?) walked up to me and handed me a little slip of paper with the words Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro written on it. She was quick, not wanting the other students to see, but she said, “I know you’re going to like this book.” I nodded a thank you, and tossed it on my desk.
After a year of reading everything I asked, I felt like I owed it to her to read this. I made the mistake of looking the book up, and the reviews were mixed to say the least. It seems like readers go in one direction or the other. My student and I belong with the lovers of the book. This book is incredible, and right up my Dystopian-filled alley. It’s not necessarily about a future world; in fact, details of time are pretty vague. It was first published in 2005, but the references feel dated. For example, a cassette tape plays a prominent role in a portion of the story, so it is hard to say exactly what time it was set.
The interesting aspect of the book is the protagonist herself, Kathy. The story is told entirely from her first-person perspective, and she is looking at her life in retrospect. We experience her childhood, up until she is a young adult. While some critics argue that the point of view is the downfall of the story, I feel like it really makes it. She is far enough removed from most situations and can see how her decisions, reactions and words effected the outcome of her relationships. She will start to talk about a situation, then backtrack and explain why particular conversations carried significance in the situation itself.
As a child, she went to a private school called Hailsham where she lived a seemingly normal life. There is not a lot I can tell you about the story because the best part is the surprises that come along the way. The less you know about this book going into it, the better. The reader believes one thing, then is completely shocked to learn that nothing is as it seems. Ever.
Some critics have called this book Science Fiction, and use that genre to further criticize the book. I personally like that genre. How can you argue with the great works of Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury? You can’t. If you like that genre, check out the book, but for everyone else- it is such a small part of the book, such a minuscule part of this beautiful story, don’t allow the genre to deter you from reading it. Ultimately, it’s a story about love, acceptance and how the corruption and evil of humanity can effect us. Is it a warning of a potential future? Possibly.
Whether you like Dystopian lit, science fiction, or just plain good books, this is one that is worth your time. Ignore the criticisms. You don’t get onto Time’s list of 100 best novels without ruffling a few feathers.