I really enjoyed this. The book depicts a post-literate world where only a few people can read, and an authoritarian government suppresses anything from family love to movies that causes people to question authority. On the outside, rebels and anti-reading fanatics challenge each other and the government itself. The use of the literacy theme and the idea that books have the ability to undermine tyranny is very well-done and rich.
I especially admired the way the book shifts perspectives among the major characters, including the chief government official, Largan--he might be the most interesting and complex character here; the scenes with his wife were achingly beautiful, if short. I also really liked Connor. I was not as enamored of Riana, who was a little too good to be true. She is completely devoted to her handicapped sister, Jannie, who at times seemed to exist just to show how noble Riana is. I hope the later books do more to develop Jannie as a real person. However, despite my frustration with the heroine, I really liked how the book detailed her growing involvement with the rebels: some of the strongest scenes dealt with the dynamics of an insurrectionary group, full of personalities and conflicting agendas.
Despite its resemblance to 1984 and similar dystopic books, this is not a dark book. In many ways this is a good thing: there is a lot of gratuitous horror and cynical ugliness in books of this genre; this book is not afraid to embrace its characters’ idealism even at the risk of coming off as naïve. There is nothing here that wouldn’t be appropriate for a sensitive young teen reader. However at times, it feels like the author shies away from the more disturbing implications of her ideas.
All in all, I really admired the book and I will definitely be reading the next entry in the series. I hope it comes out soon!