Book Review: The Meadows by Stephanie Oakes
In 2015, Stephanie Oakes wrote a brilliant book called The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, which would go on to be made into a TV show. So when I saw that Stephanie Oakes had written a new book, I could not wait to read it. And it did not disappoint.
Publisher’s Book Description:
“A story of pain, injustice, love, resistance, and hope, this glorious book will lodge inside you and make you feel everything.” —Helena Fox, award-winning author of How It Feels to Float
A queer, YA Handmaid’s Tale meets Never Let Me Go about a dystopian society bent on relentless conformity, and the struggle of one girl to save herself and those she loves from a life of lies
Everyone hopes for a letter—to attend the Estuary, the Glades, the Meadows. These are the special places where only the best and brightest go to burn even brighter.
When Eleanor is accepted at the Meadows, it means escape from her hardscrabble life by the sea, in a country ravaged by climate disaster. But despite its luminous facilities, endless fields, and pretty things, the Meadows keeps dark secrets: its purpose is to reform students, to condition them against their attractions, to show them that one way of life is the only way to survive. And maybe Eleanor would believe them, except then she meets Rose.
Four years later, Eleanor and her friends seem free of the Meadows, changed but not as they’d hoped. Eleanor is an adjudicator, her job to ensure her former classmates don’t stray from the lives they’ve been trained to live. But Eleanor can’t escape her past . . . or thoughts of the girl she once loved. As secrets unfurl, Eleanor must wage a dangerous battle for her own identity and the truth of what happened to the girl she lost, knowing, if she’s not careful, Rose’s fate could be her own.
A raw and timely masterwork of speculative fiction, The Meadows will sink its roots into you. This is a novel for our times and for always—not to be missed.
Told in alternating chapters of the past and present, we learn about this dystopian world built on lies and prejudice where girls are taught to be the perfect wives. It’s a story about enforced and toxic gender roles and trying to force all people into the same heteronormative molds, despite the harm it may be doing. It’s a searing commentary on many of the issues that have plagued the world, including racism, gender issues, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies. It also dips its toe into surveillance culture, something a lot of teen readers may not be thinking of though they definitely should be.
This is a profound story with fantastic writing that will be great companion reads to classics like Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE.
And once you have finished reading it, do go back and read THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY which also tackles a lot of important discussions about what it means to be a teen girl in our world.
What People are Saying:
“Evocative prose and worldbuilding shot through with equal parts melancholy and hope” —PW (starred review)
“Timely and gripping, [with] a new revelation always around the corner” —Kirkus Reviews
“Atmospheric and unsettling . . . Belongs in every collection” —Natalie C. Parker, author of the Seafire series
“Extraordinary” —Helena Fox, author of How It Feels to Float
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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