Shades of Grey
Jasper Fforde
Viking Adult
2009
(originally published in the UK in 2008; also published by Penguin in US in 2011)

This is NOT the Fifty Shades of Gray that has stirred up so much discussion–and rightly so–this summer. Nor is it Ruth Sepetys’ lovely historical fiction titled Between Shades of Gray (note the different spellings of Gra/ey). No, no, this is a completely different beast altogether. I recently reviewed the latest Fforde offering to hit US shelves (The Last Dragonslayer), but I’ve long wanted to review this earlier work of his. I’ve been waiting (waiting!! Hint Hint Mr Fforde!!) for the sequel, but alas…

Shades of Grey is a dystopian novel that is utterly unlike much dystopian fiction these days. Rather than a macabre fight-to-the-death story like The Hunger Games, Shades of Grey is witty (it IS Jasper Fforde, after all), full of clever wording, intricately plotted, and very thought-provoking. There is the usual dystopian novel’s autocratic government, citizens rising up undercover, and all that, but Fforde’s use of color as the dividing line and means of control is ingenious.

If you’re interested in reading a dystopian novel that is a bit more thoughtful and complex, check this one out. There is a brief sexual scene near the beginning, but it is not described gratuitously nor does the book dwell on it much. I’m afraid I don’t remember what the language use is like–it’s been a couple of years since I read it. This book would make an interesting contemporary pairing with books like Animal Farm or 1984.

Recommended for young adults (high school)
Cover image from goodreads; book borrowed from a friend

What dystopian novels have you read lately that you found thought-provoking and worth recommending?

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