The Meadows

Dial. Sept. 2023. 448p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780593111482.
Gr 9 Up–In this story told in a series of layered flashbacks, Eleanor has graduated as Best Girl from The Meadows and has been working in her chosen role as an adjudicator, in charge of evaluating other graduates’ success in society. Eleanor was elated when she first got her letter to attend The Meadows, “a place where the best and brightest of our country can learn to burn even brighter.” It provided her with an opportunity to escape her seaside village and her loveless adoptive mother. In the style of Kazuo Ishiguro, details about this elite school are dabbled out in tiny, delicious morsels and flashbacks of kissing a girl from the village help readers to discover the true nature of The Meadows—a heavy-handed attempt at instilling feminine arts and crushing lesbian inclinations through Conversion Therapy. The Matrons at the school and their goals for the residents are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with the ultimate goal of all young women placed in a marital household and producing children. The cast is diverse and issues of race are tackled head-on as readers appreciate the ridiculous color-blinding attempts of the state to eliminate all race by proclamation, “In the eyes of the state, we are all one race.” A Black character demonstrates her rebellion by making her newly minted Caucasian, blonde hair long enough to braid. The writing is painterly, yet tight; the book ties up every detail and reaffirms that queer folks are wonderful just as they are and do not require reprogramming.
VERDICT A haunting dystopian amalgamation for the 21st century. Superlative, powerful, and timely.

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