Measure of Days by Sophy Layzell
The Book Guild, £8.99, physical copy
Review by Lottie Lightfoot
The best way I can describe this book is that the author certainly had plenty of ideas for it. It’s frenetic. It’s chaotic. A lot is going on.
To summarise the plot as concisely as possible: the main character, Deter, is immune to FED – Flesh-Eating Disease (yes, really). Having been kept in isolation and away from any information regarding it, Deter does not find out the disease exists until she is kidnapped by a rogue corporation racing to create a cure before the Establishment does. They need Deter as she is one of few humans whose DNA can create a vaccine. War happens between her captors and the Establishment, and she seizes the opportunity to flee to the UK. A previous cure resulted in those who received it, producing severely deformed offspring that would not make it past birth. Oh, and everyone else is infertile? It was hard to keep track.
The plot, as loose as it is, moves too fast for the reader to register anything. The chapters are short, some only a couple of pages. There is also no clear timeline, so you have to work at it to understand what’s going on, including flicking back a chapter or so to reread it.
It had constant changing narrators, making the storyline hard to follow. It also prevents you from getting attached to the characters in any meaningful way. Changing narration is something that works if done well (looking at you, Sir Terry), but this ended up being far too chaotic to be pulled off. Each chapter is headlined with the name of the character it will be following for that segment, but even in each chapter, the narration is prone to switching, making it confusing to follow. In total, eight different perspectives are shown in the story, which felt like overkill to an already packed novel. The characters themselves were stiff and boring, with forced and stilted dialogue that made it almost painful to read.
The book doesn’t hold any intrigue or buildup. For example, Deter awakes in the lab where she is being held. An arresting, mysterious opening, which is somewhat ruined by the next chapter that details all of the preceding events and the reason why she was kidnapped in the first place in one paragraph. To put it simply, there’s no storytelling. Just a lot of events that happen that are, more or less, told in order. It was so rushed as if the entire book was just a means to an end.
The premise had been interesting enough, but nothing about this book pulled me in. It quickly became a chore for me to finish rather than an enjoyable read. It might hold some allure for a young teen audience, but no more than that.