My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t usually enjoy a story that makes me stop and wonder what I missed, but this one made me regularly catch myself and love it! The catches, once I noticed them, didn’t slow me down, didn’t make me think there was a mistake in the book; they just made a kind of ‘clink’ when the penny dropped before I madly turned the next page.
Take the way Yancey switches perspective as an example: the first time it happened, at the start of a new chapter, it was so subtle it took me two pages to realise. That kinda sounds bad, but it actually deepened my sense of being in the story, because in doing so Yancey portrayed the confusion his characters are feeling, but without totally losing me because I didn’t have to make a 180 to my mental image, just a minor adjustment.
On top of that, everything is portrayed in present tense: what’s happening now, what happened a year ago, and what happened yesterday. But at no time did the sense of time confuse or mislead me. I wish I had half his skill in that technique alone – none of those annoying ‘had’s and ‘was’s and ‘had had’s. In fact, it was just like our own memories work. Best portrayal of backstory EVER!!
By halfway through, I had a handle on where we were going, who I could trust, and who was who; but I still loved finding out the specifics, and Yancey didn’t patronize me for figuring things out: every time something was revealed, another question was raised. And the best bit? A few of the smaller ones are still unresolved (were the green and red ‘temperature readings’ random? Were they linked to what the owls did? Were they true temperatures?)
Now I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, but if you’re already convinced and know you want to read this book, skip to the next paragraph in case I’m as subtle as a brick. Go on, skip right now, because… Yancey’s most outstanding skill (a big call: his skills are many!) lies in portraying first one side of the story, then the other, while leaving us wondering what, exactly, was the truth. His ability to show from the brainwashee’s perspective just how brainwashing is effected was so good he actually brainwashed me into believing the lies – even though I knew they were lies! I mean, I knew where he was going, and he brainwashed me into going along with him anyway! Masterful.
Ok. Big rave, I know, but I’ve finished now. Oh! Can I just add: there is a climactic scene involving death and betrayal and sadness and desperation the likes of which I hope this planet never sees, but when a cockroach appears our heroine is grossed out when it approaches her face. Love it!
This book is so real, so believable, that it doesn’t matter that the basic premise has been done before, and done spectacularly (I don’t think it’s a secret but just in case: it’s (view spoiler)).
I can’t believe this sat on my shelves for six months before I finally got around to reading it. Thank you, Yancey! So glad this one’s now a movie! I hope you’re rolling in royalties!