Vampire Academy, the first in a series, introduces us to a world where vampires exist. Rose is dhampir, half human – half vampire, and in training at St. Vladimir’s Academy to protect the vampire ruling class. This fast-paced, supernatural romance appeals to those of us who still love a good vampire novel.
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Being a grown up can be a drag…but living in a world where a simple walk in the woods can turn magical, where beasts and mirrors can talk, and to-do lists include epic adventures, evil witches, and brothers named Grimm – now that is living.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Page Count: 288
Genre: Science Fiction
Tone: Complex, suspenseful, thoughtful
1. In one interview, Ishiguro observes that in many reviews of Never Let Me Go, the words “strange” or “sinister” keep coming up. Do these words reflect your experience with the book? What other words would you use?
2. Ishiguro, on the other hand, claims he thinks of this as his “most cheerful book”. Why do you think that is?
Ishiguro: “In the past, I had written about characters’ failings…With NLMG I felt that for the first time I had given myself permission to focus on the positive aspects of human beings. OK, they might be flawed. They might be prone to the usual human emotions like jealousy and pettiness and so on. But I wanted to show three people who were essentially decent. When they finally realize their time is limited, I wanted them…to care most about each other and setting things right. So for me, it was saying positive things about human beings against the rather bleak fact of our mortality.” (The Paris Review)
3. At what point in the story did you realize the full meaning of “donor” and “complete”?
4. One of the most common criticisms of the story is that the students never take action to change their fate. Did this bother you? How do you respond to the author’s explanation of his choice:
“It’s something I do instinctively in my writing,” says Ishiguro “and with this book it was a very important feature that escape was not an option. It’s about how we’re all aware of our fate, in that we have a limited time in life. Escape isn’t an issue in the book, because it’s never really an option in our own lives. Characters like Stevens and the kids in Never Let Me Go do what we all do; try to give meaning to our lives by fulfilling some sort of duty.”
5. Kathy’s narration is a key to the novel’s disquieting effect. Was the choice of Kathy’s perspective a wise one? How would the novel be different if narrated from Tommy’s point of view, or Ruth’s, or even Miss Emily’s?
6. What are some of Ruth’s most striking character traits? How might her social behavior, at Hailsham and later at the Cottages, be explained? Why does she seek her “possible” so earnestly?
7. Art is a recurring motif throughout Never Let Me Go. In which scenes is art a topic? What is the importance to the students as children? As adults? To the story’s themes?
8. Speaking of love, what is the importance of the myth of deferral – both to the students and to the narrative? As you read, did you have hope that this was a real possibility for them?
9. Why do you think there was so much attention given to sexual urges and relationships? Is it simply because the story focuses on adolescents and young adults, or is there another explanation?
10. How is the students’ inability to have children significant?
11. What is the significance of the title?
12. What were your reactions to the meeting with Miss Emily and Madame?
13. Is it surprising that Miss Emily admits feeling revulsion for the children at Hailsham?
14. What is the book saying about childhood? Think about this, too, in the context of Miss Lucy, who wanted to make the children more aware of the future that awaited them. In contrast, Miss Emily claims they were able to give them something precious – “we gave you your childhoods” (p. 268). In the context of the story as a whole, is this a valid argument?
15. One the distinguishing features of Ishiguro’s novels is his prose style. How would you characterize his writing? How did you respond to it?
16. If you have seen the recent movie adaptation, what impressed you? What disappointed you? Which did you find more poignant?
17. Did this novel surprise you? Would you be open to reading another like it? Are there similar books you might suggest?
Abe Books discussion questions
Lit Lovers discussion questions
Kazuo Ishiguro interviewed by Allan Gregg
Book review by The Guardian
Book review by The New York Times
Ethics of cloning Wikipedia page
Trailer for movie adaptation
If you liked Never Let Me Go, try…
Miriam Black knows when and how you’re going to die. She’s a beautifully scummy woman resigned to edge-living and stealing from the dead…until she meets a trucker named Louis. For a gutter punk Dead Zone with a strong, but not infallible female lead, try Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds.
OH, NO! Aliens are here to invade our bodies and take over Earth. Wait…what about…OH, NO! Humans have accidentally destroyed the Earth and now have to find another oxygen-rich world. Planetary colonization is a major theme within sci-fi, and there are plenty of ways in which it can go down.
Click here to see fiction, and a few movies, that feature planetary colonization.
Larry of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Feed by M.T. Anderson:
Computers have been reduced in size to a small chip that can be implanted in the human brain. Everything that can be done with a computer is now done by the interaction of one’s thoughts with the chip which is in constant connection with the network. Get the news, watch your favorite show, talk online with your friends, do your work, and buy products online through your brain’s connection to the Feed. No need to read, write, or dial numbers; it all comes to you automatically, including a constant flow of advertisements for products targeting your specific interests. But there’s a price to pay in quality of life and human development for a society of runaway consumerism and instant gratification.
For 25 pieces of gold a day, sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse will take on almost any case. His office is above Angelina’s Tavern. One slow night, an occupied, oversized coffin is delivered to Angelina’s. All the regulars egg Eddie on to tell them who is in the coffin and how he could possibly know without prying the lid off. Eddie tells of a long-ago case on the island kingdom of Grand Braun, where King Marcus Drake is beloved by his people and Queen Jennifer is accused of adultery and murder. In Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe, Eddie unravels if Queen Jennifer is a killer and who is in the coffin so many years later.
Also, if you love audiobooks, Dark Jenny is a great listen, read by Stefan Rudnicki.
Fringe is more than you think it is. Yes, it began with X-Files-like investigations into strange events, and you’ll certainly find episodes with the best storytelling elements of science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. However, it grows beyond formulaic genre fare. Fringe became a complex and poignant exploration of parenthood, identity, and humanity. Terrific performances, most especially that of John Noble as the repentant, Red Vine-loving mad scientist, expose the beating hearts beneath dual worlds. Not many series boast episodes that include a noir musical, an LSD-fueled jump into animation, or a twenty-five-year fast-forward into dystopia, but that’s par for the course on a show that embraces the full spectrum of human emotion, from the creepy to the heart-tugging.
Chintana is a struggling seamstress going through a divorce. She accidentally ends up at her husband’s mistress’ house for a birthday party. A storyteller has been brought in to entertain the children, but his story is a dark one. You see, there is a sword – a sword that might even be in the long black box set before the audience – that only causes harm to its victims after they have aged to 50. The Fifty Year Sword is an experimental novella by Mark Z. Danielewski. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Danielewski has a major cult following for his first novel, House of Leaves.
In one of the most fascinating starts in recent fiction, Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves, and she has no idea how this happened or even who she is. A note in her jacket pocket begins, “The body you are wearing used to be mine,” kick-starting a story that escalates in both action and intrigue. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is masterfully read by Susan Duerden, who rises to the challenge of voicing two versions of Myfanwy — one of whom is revealed through stacks of preemptive letters, and the other who is trying to ferret out a conspiracy in the secret organization which battles supernatural forces in Britain.