Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Brutal – that’s really the only word I can use to describe this book. BRUTAL.
In the beginning you get a sense of unease, but the tension is ratcheted up throughout the novel – and that ending? It just flips everything upside down and leaves you gawping like a fish. The pacing is excellent, the writing is great, and the scientific details were enough to provide a solid explanation without becoming overly complex.
I think one of the strengths of this book is that the author manages to make you feel for characters you wouldn’t necessarily want to sympathise with – mostly the afflicted kids, but also the battle-hardened Sergeant and the cold, calculating Caldwell, a scientist. Miss Justineau’s character, on the other hand, represents the struggles of humanity that she debates and deals with everyday, both in her role as a teacher and in the aftermath. Melanie, one of our main narrators, and a child, also represents part of this struggle.
It’s a book where you don’t want to go in with too much information – part of the joy, if I can use that word, is finding out for yourself exactly what is going on.
In short, while the world and landscape may be bleak and uncertain, there are moments of compassion, affection and hope from our central band of characters. A fantastic, pulse-pounding read.