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BookTok worth it or not: ‘Never Let Me Go’

Well folks we are back. Another week, another book. Actually I have to start reading more because midterms have really been absolutely killing my reading vibe, which is unfortunate. But we persist nonetheless. Any recommendations please drop a comment on our Instagram page @thebrandeishoot—a shameless self plug because I really want new content in spite of having unread books on my shelves. (Why is this a general trend in the avid reader community to seek out new books in spite of having books readily available? Ugh I digress, as per usual.) 

Now, I read this book a while ago, but it has taken me some time to actually come to terms with what I have read in order to give a review on it, because it honestly left me kinda shattered. It actually put me in one of those states where I had to go and immediately read a happier, lighter book *cough cough “This Time Next Year”* in order to recover, and even that wasn’t an effective treatment. 

So that’s a disclaimer about the book—it will leave you feeling pretty sad. 

Anyway, here’s what I do. I find books on BookTok—which is a sub-branch of the app TikTok—despite not having TikTok downloaded on my electronic device. I then go on a hunt for said book and read it to see whether the general public’s opinions on the app are supported or not. I stole this book from my sister back at the start of this semester and we will see whether I give it back. This will really depend on whether she remembers I took it in the first place. Now, this book has received a lot of praise both on and off the app. And I have to say it is definitely well deserved. So let’s get into it.

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro’s name might be familiar if you frequent BookTok. Not only has he written “Never Let Me Go” which has captivated readers, he has also written “Klara and the Sun” which has also been hyped up on the app. “Never Let Me Go” was actually written in 2005 and later was adapted into a movie in 2010. Now I had no idea this was a movie, let alone a movie that stars both Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. So now that is also on my watch list.

“Never Let Me Go” is a dystopian fiction novel to really make you reminisce on your days of reading books like “The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner.” You follow the life of Kathy and her two friends, Tommy and Ruth, from their childhood to young adulthood. The book starts with Kathy reminiscing on her boarding school days at Hailsham as her days as a carer come to an end. As a carer, Kathy has worked looking after organ donors, and she notes she has been doing it longer than most people. In fact, she has been doing it for 12 years, and she notes that both Tommy and Ruth have completed at this time, leaving just her. You know right away that something isn’t quite right about this world—classic dystopian tale. But you continue down memory lane with Kathy as she “preserves” her memories of Tommy and Ruth. 

I’m just gonna place a spoiler warning here because I think this is a safe spot to do so. 

The novel goes on to show the complex relationships between the trio as they grow up. For the first part of the book Ruth and Tommy are paired together romantically despite Kathy having feelings for Tommy—a love triangle, I know, but it’s worth it. You have to stick it out reading about Ruth and Tommy being together when you know it should be Kathy instead, but I digress. As we learn more about Hailsham we then have the curtain pulled up to reveal the huge secret. Hailsham is a school for clones who were created to donate organs to others. Basically they are made as copies for others, and once they give their donations they will die young. 

Heavy stuff.

Now when they are told this as children they don’t give much weight to it. When they are older, however, this feeling of trying to escape the donations begins to sort of develop. Two of the older students at Hailsham share a rumor with the trio that they heard, which says you can have your donations deferred if you can prove you are truly in love, basically to prove they have souls and cannot just be killed. 

However, Ruth’s first donation takes a toll on her health and it’s clear she won’t survive long. Kathy becomes Ruth’s carer as her health deteriorates, and together with Tommy the three take a trip together. Here is when Ruth apologizes to Kathy and Tommy for keeping them apart for so long. She then gives them her blessing basically to go and petition to seek a deferral for their donations. Ruth makes her second donation and completes, which is Ishiguro’s way of saying she’s died. 

Kathy and Tommy go to get the deferral only to learn that the rumor was not true. There is no deferral option and when called to donate they have to. Tommy is now a donor at this point and Kathy becomes his carer, just as she was for Ruth. Tommy knows his health isn’t doing well after one of his donations and he tells Kathy she cannot be his carer anymore. Unable to stop what is coming Tommy also completes, leaving Kathy the only survivor of the trio. 

End of spoiler warning

The book is heartbreaking. It is a love story that doesn’t end happily. It is a story where the protagonist doesn’t defeat the odds or win in the end. It is a story of acceptance of what life has handed you and moving forward with it without fighting the ebb and flow of life. 

So yeah, want to get emotionally wrecked by reading this book? You have enough sadness on your plate with finals? Maybe save this one for another day then. 

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