A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Never Let Me Go is set in a highly disturbing sci-fi reality in which young people try to make sense of their relationships and an increasingly hopeless world. The author introduces a host of invented, unnatural roles: students, guardians, careers, and donors, and slowly reveals what these labels mean. However, most of the interpersonal situations that crop up are fairly believable, typical adolescent scenarios, and tween and teen readers may identify with the central characters. Though this book, by one of England's most acclaimed living novelists, was written for an adult audience, the teen and young adult characters make it appealing to younger readers, and the prose is simple and straightforward enough to make it accessible to readers aged 12 and up. However, some parents may feel the book's sexual content is too strange for pre-teen readers. A film version of Never Let Me Go received positive reviews when it was released in 2010 (out on video in 2011), but was rightfully called very dark and depressing.
What's the story?
Now a young woman, Kathy reflects on her life as a child and as a teen at Hailsham, the exclusive English boarding school she attended. She recalls the intimate relationships she forged with Ruth, whose lies tested their friendship, and Tommy, a troubled and sensitive outcast. Over time, the three central characters uncover the truth about their guardians, their fate, and what they mean to each other.
Is it any good?
Readers are kept on very much the same footing as the central characters; we experience the same kind of suspense as the dark, disturbing reality they face unfolds, and it's gripping. As he famously proved in his Man Booker Award-winning novel Remains of the Day (1989), Ishiguro is a master of restraint; he holds back just enough to create emotional tension, so even his least eventful plots become page-turners. Though Never Let Me Go is not a masterpiece on the order of Remains, it is thought-provoking and creates a fully realized, horrific, unforgettable world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about human cloning, which figures in the story. If such a thing were possible in the real world, should it be done?
Do you agree with Miss Lucy that students should have been told more about their future lives and purpose? Why or why not?
In many ways, Kathy and her friends seem like pretty typical teenagers. What do you think makes them seem "normal," or not?
Kathy and Ruth's relationship is quite troubled. Why do you think Kathy forgives Ruth so much?
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