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The Measure by Nikki Erlick
- Publisher: William Morrow & Company < HarperCollins
- Genre: Fiction < Literary Fiction
- Audience: Adult
- Pages: 368 (hardcover)
Eight ordinary people. One extraordinary choice. It seems like any other day. You wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and head out. But today, when you open your front door, waiting for you is a small wooden box. This box holds your fate inside: the answer to the exact number of years you will live. From suburban doorsteps to desert tents, every person on every continent receives the same box. In an instant, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy. Where did these boxes come from? What do they mean? Is there truth to what they promise? As society comes together and pulls apart, everyone faces the same shocking choice: Do they wish to know how long they’ll live? And, if so, what will they do with that knowledge? The Measure charts the dawn of this new world through an unforgettable cast of characters whose decisions and fates interweave with one another: best friends whose dreams are forever entwined, pen pals finding refuge in the unknown, a couple who thought they didn’t have to rush, a doctor who cannot save himself, and a politician whose box becomes the powder keg that ultimately changes everything.
“That the beginning and the end may have been chosen for us, the string already spun, but the middle had always been left undetermined, to be woven and shaped by us”the measure
The Measure is marketed as the perfect fiction read for fans of The Midnight Library and The Immortalists.
I’m not sure about it being compared to The Midnight Library in terms of enjoyability—I liked TML a lot less than I liked this—but they definitely got the introspective “knowing what you now know, is it worth it to live on or not?” part right.
That being said, the comparison to The Immortalists was 100% spot on, and I stand with that. In order to reach further and recommend this to other readers who don’t necessarily read outside a fantasy/YA bubble, I might even say this is a potentially enjoyable read for fans of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, or Under the Whispering Door.
Though for readers who find they enjoy books with similar writing styles rather than similar plot premises, I would recommend this to fans of How High We Go in the Dark—In both, there are multiple POVs that play off one another’s themes and interweave in both subtle and more obvious ways.
The Measure is a work of speculative fiction, or perhaps magical realism even, that explores a reality in which one day, billions of boxes float down from the sky, containing a length of string.
This string measures the length of the recipient’s life, and is soon proven to be incredibly, shockingly—and for some, devastatingly—accurate. From there on, on the day of someone’s 22nd birthday, they would receive their box from the same unknown source. Afterwards, fear and panic plagued society. Two separate classes emerged: shortstringers and longstringers.
For everyone, the simple right to privacy is discussed at length, and disregarded in terms of whether to disclose strings or not. For short stringers, many of their rights and freedoms were stripped, and discrimination made the remainder of their lives difficult to bear.
When I first picked this book up, I wasn’t quite sure what I expected.
Even though I liked The Immortalists, I didn’t absolutely love it. And as for The Midnight Library, I really didn’t like that. Naturally, I had reservations, but even after finishing the first chapter, all those reservations vanished. Completely. I was hooked, and from there, I couldn’t stop. I read it from start to finish in a span of a couple hours.
This is not for anyone looking for a lighthearted and fluffy read.
This will make you tear up—perhaps even sob. This book also includes graphic, traumatic, and anxiety-inducing content that might be hard for a portion of readers: mass shootings, discrimination, deaths by a good number of various incidents, depression, suicide, etc. It’s a difficult read, but it certainly makes you feel a lot.
The characters, though there is a large cast explored in only 300-something pages, still felt very real and relatable.
They each were unique, and easily recognizable from one another, which is necessary in a book that spans multiple POVs. The interweaving of storylines was entertaining and satisfying. The romance was limited, but no less striking. The emotional impact on the reader is still intense. And the tension is built beautifully, making the reading atmosphere both introspective, but also dreadful and almost terrifying a as the story builds to its climax.
At the heart of this story lies many questions.
Say a box containing your string of life showed up at your doorstep: would you open it to find out, or would you keep it closed? If you opened it, you’d have to live with the knowledge—constantly fearing the day you know is coming, living your life in the shadow of that fear. If you kept it closed, you’d be free from that burden, but do you have the willpower not to look?
Furthermore, if you open the box, who are you obligated to tell? Friends, family? What rights does the government have to this information, and what might they do once they get ahold of it? Can they impose rules where only longstringers can serve in positions of high risk or high importance such as the military, police force, doctors, or president? Do you need to disclose your length of life on dating apps. Can you even morally have a child, or be legally allowed to adopt a child as a short stringer? What all will you become willing to do if you have the surety of knowing you’ll live a long life?
The Measure makes a perfect book club pick, as there’s lots of discussion to be had about the questions this novel poses.
- Public Shooting
- Suicidal thoughts & ideation
- Graphic content
The Measure by Nikki ErlickThe Measure by Nikki Erlick
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Let’s Chat in the Comments!
Would you look at your string, or would you prefer to leave it a mystery? How would you live your life if you knew you had a set-in-stone expiration date?