Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Tags: dystopian


Kathy reflects on growing up in Hailsham alongside her friends Ruth and Tommy.


NEVER LET ME GO is like a—for lack of a better way to put it—grown-up version of a YA novel. The elements of a YA are all there: the occasionally angsty musings of an adolescent girl; the complex and manipulative best friend; a boarding school with a dystopian feel (two in one!). As Kathy narrates the story, the writing is fitting for the voice of a woman—not overly smart but not dumb either—reflecting on her adolescent years.

But it is the way that NEVER LETS ME GO treats its premise that marks it as not YA. If this were a YA novel (which it very well easily could’ve been, had Kazuo Ishiguro chosen to go that route), there would most likely have been a dramatic ending in which good triumphs over the Ambiguously Bad and they all live happily ever after. I kind of like that this book didn’t do that. Instead, it follows the gradual but inevitable path of characters whose destinies were laid out for them since before they were born.

Ishiguro uses a strategy that I will call “suspenseful foreshadowing” quite liberally, stringing anecdotes along one after another so that you will feel like you can barely stop for breath, something is always about to happen, about to happen. Not a bad strategy, and I like that it seems to reflect more on Kathy’s writing abilities than Ishiguro’s (and it’s a talented writer who can do that).

NEVER LET ME GO is a subtly brilliant and disturbing novel that would be greatly appreciated by readers who like their books a little more thought-provoking, a little less rose-colored or deus ex machina-ridden.

Vintage / March 14, 2006 / Paperback (reprint) / 288pp. / $15.00

Personal copy.


  1. Now I really, really want to read this one!

  2. This one is on my list to read. The premise intrigued me greatly, and after I (inadvertently) saw the movie, I was even more intrigued. I'm sure the book is much, much better than the movie, which was good...and disturbing. I look forward to reading it.

  3. Hm! I liked this book but I had expected more from it after seeing its praise. It was really hard for me to connect with the characters and I couldn't decide if you were suppose to feel something for them or not. Have you watched the film version?

  4. I think you're spot-on in recommending Never Let Me Go as an adult YA novel. It's so well written and compelling, and focused on how these characters grow up (especially considering their fate). I loved it, and I think it would be a great crossover for older teens and adults who like the YA genre.

    Also, not at all YA, but Ishiguro's "Remains of the Day" is heartbreaking.

  5. Thanks I haven't read this book yet but ut's surly on my list to read. People here talking about the film and i don't think I seen it

  6. Loved this story so much. I actually listened to the audio version, narrated by Emilia Fox, which I thought was just so hauntingly beautiful.

  7. I've been meaning to read this one, but my sister saw the movie, liked it, but also said it depressed her for the rest of the day. Haha. Hopefully, I'll get to pick this one up soon!


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