I should have known I would not like this book, but when I requested the audio book from the library, I didn't know it was a Newbery winner or I wouldn't have bothered. Medal-winning novels have been very nearly a consistent waste of time for me. I deliberately put them back on the shelf if they have some medal listed on the cover. This one turned out to be no different from nearly all of my previous experiences!
The biggest problem with dystopian novels is the utter lack of rational explanation as to how the world actually became dystopian in the first place. Most dystopian novels simply take it as a given - this is how the world is, and vaguely wave their hand at some tragic past, such as nuclear war, or disease pandemic, but this fails for me because while it explains that the world changed dramatically, it fails to explain why it changed in the way the author depicts it did. The author of the Divergent disaster, for example (who evidently borrowed heavily from this novel), simply took the brain-dead position that "Hey, it's perfectly natural that people would automatically migrate, like sheep, into one of five ridiculous factions, and we're expected to accept that all humans are alike, all conform readily, there's only one rebel, and no one else ever questions anything. That's major BS right there. Humans are not like that and it's an insult to the human race to suggest that everyone is.
In this novel, which is part of a connected series I'm sorry to say, everyone lives in supposed communist conformity, and children are assigned at age twelve into one of a limited number of assignments which last a lifetime. No one complains, no one rebels, and those who feel they don't fit will request to be forced into "release" - which is that they're murdered. Sorry but this won't work. It doesn't even make any sense.
In this world, all pain and hunger and suffering are taken away, but the "price" for this is the loss of music, art, and other human expressions of joy, such as love? Nonsense! They can't even see - or at least don't even know - what colors are? Seriously? It doesn't work in such a literal black and white manner, and it's not so much naïve to believe it would, as it's profoundly ignorant on the part of an author to even think that it does and that we as readers, would swallow this crap.
Perhaps a better writer might have made this work, but this author fails because the writing is utterly boring. It's so boring in fact that the audio book creators felt the dire need to inject irritating, jarring, monotonous musical interludes randomly into the text. Where those in the original novel? Did you open page 55 and suddenly a piano trilled forth? I seriously doubt it. So what is on the unimaginative brains of these imbeciles that - in a story where music is banned - a mind-numbingly mediocre musical measure or two are injected over the narration? You can't get that dumb naturally. You actually have to really want it and fight for it, to get it as chronic as these guys had it.
But even without that pain in the eardrum, even had I been reading it, I would have found myself skipping over paragraph after paragraph because it wasn't remotely interesting. Did I really want to listen to, in the space of four short paragraphs:
And today, now that the new Elevens had been advanced this morning, there were two Eleven-nineteens...Very soon he would not be an Eleven but a Twelve...Asher was a four, and sat now in the row ahead of Jonas. He would receive his Assignment fourth....Fiona, Eighteen, was on his left; on his other side sat Twenty...
I'd rather listen to paint drying. It's much more restful. I'm sorry but I can't get into a novel that plods the way this one does, with nothing happening save for one long info-dump of a set-up which occupied over half the story. Yes the novel - novella, whatever - is short, but it's still way too long for my taste. Any hopeful young writer who came out with this garbage as a first effort today would rightly have it rejected, yet it won a medal? For what?! The music?! It just goes to show how utterly worthless a Newbery is. I can't recommend it based on what I listened to, which was far too much. A real dystopian society would make you listen to books like this.