This is one of those books that you read, finish, set aside, and then two days later the enormity of it blindsides you and you think about it for ages afterwards. It's a dystopian story, but not the usual kind. The usual kind involves someone raised/living in a dystopia who starts to wonder if things are really as they should be. (The Handmaid's Tale is one of probably many exceptions to this rule). In this story, the people most involved--the students--don't question the status quo. Which, I think, is why the book hits you so hard later.
People have complained that reviews of this book contain too many spoilers, so I'm not going into the plot. If you want it, the Publishers Weekly review at Amazon outlines the whole story. I knew vaguely what the book was about before I started it, but even if you picked it up in complete ignorance, you'd know what was going on by about page forty. For me, figuring it out wasn't the important part.
This isn't like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects. There isn't a big twist waiting at the end. (There is, kind of, I guess, but not really--you're just given a broader picture of what you've already seen--Hailsham in the context of the rest of the country and the world).
In someone else's hands, it could've easily become a ham-handed overly moralistic/preachy Spielberg-esque story. Thankfully, it wasn't, because it's a beautifully written novel that will stay with you. It isn't fast-paced--it does take patience. But it's well worth it. Another one that I'll be thinking about for a long time.
I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes one of the newer classics. (I'd be more surprised if it didn't, really).
(Now someone else has to read it so that we can talk about it. Or I might freak out. Because I'm about to bust. And Josh can't take it anymore because he hasn't read it and I manage to work it into every conversation we have. Even the post-Revenge of the Sith conversation).