This is the story of Toby. A teenager diagnosed with a "defective" gene. He is forcibly removed from his home and transported, with others, to a secluded location "somewhere north" to live out the remainder of their lives in a large house, or boarding school.
The defective gene, or the location is never truly explained. But what happens to them when the defect kicks in, is. After the initial symptoms manifest themselves the poor person is taken upstairs to the sanatorium and is never seen again. Matron rules the house with a rigid, if almost invisible, rule.
You learn of Toby's interaction with his dorm fellows, and how they interact with other dorms dwellers. How each dorm differs, and how all the residents react to each new arrival. Seen, expertly, through the eyes of the leader of dorm four, Toby.
Told first person through Toby's perspective this story doesn't let you go. You instantly emphasise with Toby and his situation. As the tale develops, so does your curiosity. The story simply doesn't follow the path you were expecting. The end is not the one I had expected. By two thirds of the way through, I really didn't know what to expect.
* * *
The narrative in this book is first class. Words like poignant, moving, touching, harrowing and "un-put-downable" are frequently over used. Simply put, they wouldn't be for this book. I really don't want to spoil the ending, or even refer to Shakespeare, but it was entirely unexpected. Well for me at least.
Given the age of the protagonist and his companions one might think this is YA. It isn't. Although it could be read by YA, I think this book is multi-generational. Considering the books title, some might think they have picked up a horror novel. Whilst some of the aspects touched on in this book are indeed horrible, the story itself is not horror, per se.
I am a great fan of Sarah's writing, and I can say this is her at her very best. Bravo!