Book Review: The Year of the Flood was an amazing book. Not only did it surpass my (rather high) expectations, but it also went far beyond. Margaret Atwood obviously knows her craft, and although I didn’t read the first book in the trilogy (this is the second), I think this book is fabulous as a standalone dystopian.
The format of this book is quite unique. There are poems or hymns from the God’s Gardener’s Handbook (or something or the other) at the beginning of each part in the book, and a speech by Adam One, the leader of God’s Gardeners, a religious group that is central to the plot development of the story. These and the beautifully-narrated chapters of the book combine together to create a fabulous blend of world-building, and without even having to read the first chapter, we are already shown the setting and what sort of a world these characters live in. I think that you truly need to be practiced at writing to be able to tell and show so much in a few stanzas.
If you’re looking for a very unique dystopian, you’re looking in the wrong place. Margaret Atwood seems to have taken a few leaves out of Lois Lowry’s plots, added a few adult elements to it, and created a new story altogether.
Toby and Ren, the main characters, both end up with the God’s Gardeners out of their own free will. And while the life of the ‘pleebos’, the street children who shoplift and live out in the open, might seem extremely unstable and very undesirable, the life of a God’s Gardener isn’t so great either. God’s Gardeners are a bizarre blend of extreme peace and Christianity, as well as obsessive health freaks and vegetarians. At first sight (I must admit, Margaret Atwood makes them sound more appealing than I do, but then again, I’m biased after reading the book), their lives seem Utopian, with no materialistic values and almost total equality and peace, but after a while, readers realise that this religious group is, in fact, rather dystopian. I won’t reveal much more here, but that seems lifted out of The Giver to me.
However, the speculative nature of the book really appealed to me, since I’m currently reading Matched by Allie Condie and comparing it constantly to The Year of the Flood–I think Margaret Atwood’s book is so much more thoughtful and has more of a social commentary than Matched. I often read dystopias for the political conflicts and the totalitarian aspects more than anything else, and in this aspect, The Year of the Flood was far more sophisticated and developed than Matched. Or maybe that’s just my opinion, since heaps of people seem to have loved Matched.
The characters were also marvelously well-developed, and the chapters with Ren and Toby’s backstories and how they ended up with the Gardners were ones that I tore through. I love it when authors add aspects of a character’s history to the book–it creates a new dimension for the character, and it makes them so much more real and relatable.
Finally, I’ve been reading a lot of YA recently (more so than before), and I found this book a very refreshing break from the constant romance/boy-girl tension so prevalent in young adult books. The Year of the Flood went a lot deeper than what I usually read, and it’s the sort of book that I’ll be thinking about and craving years from now.
Overview: I loved The Year of the Flood. The social commentary and characters were both marvelous, and Margaret Atwood’s writing, as expected, was fabulous. The lack of overly-heavy romance was very refreshing, and while The Year of the Flood wasn’t the most original dystopian I’ve come across, nor is the plot extremely complicated, it made me think a lot and question many things in my own life. Four and a half stars.