Being the huge dystopia fan I am, I was excited to read this. If you can get over the believability issues I mentioned in the first paragraph, you’ll find a meaty novel here about the realities of war and the effects it has on everyone involved. At first, Daisy is rather callous when she hears about people dying: “Most of the people who got killed were either old like our parents so they’d had good lives already, or people who worked in banks and were pretty boring anyway or other people we didn’t know.” She doesn’t let much get to her. Then she opens her heart to Edmund, is ripped away from the farm, and has to become a surrogate parent of sorts for Piper. She grows up fast.
The prose has a heavy, dreamlike quality to it, underscoring the atmosphere of dread and blunting the emotional impact, like war tends to do. It’s a fitting stylistic choice, but it slows the pace at times to a frustrating crawl and tends to weigh down the narrative. The characters, for the most part, are well drawn. Daisy has her problems, but I liked her snark and spunk. Piper comes off perhaps as a bit too angelic (she’s even a dog whisperer) and Edmund is hard to read, but boys usually are. This is a sucessful novel on many levels - too bad about the tacked on and off-putting ending.
If you like this book, you might like to read Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, a novel with similar themes that I liked even more.