Disclaimer: This is my second time reading this book. It was even sadder the second time. Almost every moment becomes sad. If it's your first time, you might have some hope at the beginning. I don't think I actually realized the whole clone thing was going on until maybe a third of the way in (or some other equally embarrassing quantity). And before then, I'm not sure what my expectations were, but I don't think they were anything close to what actually ends up happening. I distinctly remember, after finishing it, thinking: "ok, so the main difference between kid books and adult books is that kid books always have happy endings, and adult books always have sad endings (ok maybe not sad, but not happy)." I think I read The Fault in Our Stars before reading this (not really an "adult" book but whatever) which may have also influenced this lame epiphany. Anyways, onto the non-disclaimer stuff.
Disclaimer: I watched the movie some time ago before reading this, and now I definitely pictured Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan, and Keira Knightley when reading this. I think it's a pretty good casting, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. The movie was meh.
This is the novel I usually recommend people if they're looking for a good read. You should read it! I think it checks all my boxes. I'm not sure what my boxes are, but let's make some up.
Relatable characters. As a bonus, some of these characters are actually likeable! If you think all books have likeable characters, you should give Wuthering Heights a try. I guess some of those characters are likable in a "this character is so evil and demented which I find amusing" kind of way. But does that really count? There aren't too many characters in this book, so I can list all the characters I like. Kath. Tommy. Definitely not Ruth. Miss Lucy, kinda? That's about it. The only characters that are really fleshed out are Kath, Tommy, and Ruth, so there aren't many options. Kath does come across as a bit anaesthetic. We never really see any strong emotions in her writing. She'll say "and then I sobbed" or something like that, but she kinda says it like a robot. I still like her though. It's also one of the things that makes this book so sad (I think it's the dominant cause). That the narrator, and everyone else, just accepts their fate (besides the deferral stuff, about which no one really gets their hopes too high). Alright, let's talk about Ruth. I was a bit apprehensive about re-reading this book because I remember being super annoyed at the Kath-Tommy-Ruth love triangle, and how Ruth obviously cock blocks Tommy, or clam jams Kath. I guess in this scenario it's both. I think the movie had something to do with it. Keira Knightley plays the bitchy role quite well. Maybe too well. I think it's played up a bit in the movies. Or maybe it's more provocative seeing it on a screen than reading it. Whatever the cause, I was apprehensive. But while re-reading it, I was pleasantly surprised about how little I was annoyed. Knowing how the whole thing goes helped (although I totally forgot the Miss Emily thing at the end). The real kicker was the realization that it wasn't completely Ruth's fault. If Kath and Tommy really loved each other that much then they should've done something about it. This might be an oversimplification: they had Ruth's feelings to consider, and neither of them seemed very good at handling stuff like this. Regardless, I place some of the blame on them.
Page-turnability. Sentences like: "But then everything changed again, and that was because of the boat" (215) make it hard to stop reading. It doesn't have as many cliffhangers as a few episodes of anime (i'm looking at you, Frieza), but it comes pretty close. Let's take a moment to reflect on how out of hand that last bullet point got.
Good readability (flows well)
Cool cover (I have the one with the eyes on it)
Long, but not too long (or, if you prefer, short, but not too short)
Ok I ran out of box ideas. Time for some youtube comments (from the movie trailer):
Would make The Fault in our Stars look like a joke. - Butter
this is the saddest fucking movie i've ever seen, i can't even go back to this trailer without tearing up a bit fuck this movie man - bananasare4ever
People shouldn't watch this movie if they have broken hearts. - Mahmood Ahmad
I'm kinda scared to watch this but I want to and it's not even horror movie fear, it's like personal fear..... - Crossmyheart
Tommy's final operation made him Spiderman. - Jay C.S.
This movie broke me. - Flo
This movie is so damn devastating like man......It literally takes you on an wild emotional roller coaster, like seriously one minute it makes you feel happy and then the next it rips your heart out and stomps on it, and then when you think the heart ache is done, it rips your heart out again and stomps on it some more....Its honestly a really well made movie though. - Joelle V
The movie made me read the book. Which scarred me for life... - I.B. Collection
You get the idea.
I'm gonna talk more about the sadness now. I mentioned this in the first disclaimer, but I'll say it again: every moment in this book is frikin sad. Even when they're having fun it's sad cause you know they're gonna die (assuming a re-read). Which is kind of interesting, because we don't look at normal life like this. It would be quite unhealthy. And maybe the characters don't either. But if I were to take a guess, I'd say it's always on their minds. The thing that's different is that their death is known. It's predestined; they know it's gonna happen, and they have a good idea of when it's going to happen. Us, we know we're going to die, but it's not really relevant most of the time. When it does become relevant, when people get some kind of "death notice," it does change how we live, at least most of us. That is, if I told a person on the street they were gonna die in a few months, then 1) he/she would probably freak out a bit and 2) he/she would live different lives than if they did not know. This read is slightly relevant.
Like I said in that really long bullet point, the saddest thing is how the characters accept their lives. This isn't like The House of the Scorpion or The Island where the clones escape their oppressors and go on to live normal(?) lives. I haven't read the sequel to The House of the Scorpion, so maybe I'm wrong about the normal lives thing. I also don't remember how The Island ends. But this is irrelevant: in these works, the characters put up a fight. There's a sense of hope, the possibility that a clone can escape his destiny. In Never Let Me Go, the characters know they're gonna die, and they're totally fine with it. Some of them even want to speed the process up (carer -> donor). The normality of the whole thing is unsettling, and really sad.
I'm not gonna put a bunch of quotes because I'm too lazy. I'm just gonna put this one.
The others filed out behind me, and while I was waiting for the change, I watched them through one of the big misty windows, shuffling about in the sunshine, not talking, looking down at the sea. (155)
This is the last line of chapter thirteen. It struck me as a powerful sentence. By itself, it's not too special. Within the context of the story, it is, at least to me. In this book, every moment becomes important. It's an importance of rarity, the kind endowed on moments which will happen, but never again. It's only in hindsight that one can consider or identify them (or from outside the pages), and when one does, it seems like a shame to spend such moments dwelling in awkward silence. I may have overblown this a little. It's not necessarily one of the books more noticeable points. All I can say is that after reading it, and imagining it, I could feel some emotion.