Overall, it was both a fun and an emotional story, with good pacing and an appropriate mix of calm moments and tense ones. Also, since I read it through Pigeonhole, the staves were cut in such a way that they stop just at the right moment: if they hadn't, I sure wouldn't have stopped reading until the next day.
I really liked the cast, and the choice of relying on different people for a change: not your typical teenagers, but clearly the "underdogs", those seen as "problem children", considered from the start as "inferior", "useless", and all other manners of stupid clichés by "normal" people (whatever "normal" means anyway, eh?). Our heroes were clearly much more than their differences: they were human beings, something that should never be forgotten. They were good people, with their positive and negative traits like everyone, with a hefty dose of bravery and a genuine desire to do the right thing. And without being bogged down by "regular" society's demands, they were given the space to grow into themselves as people.
Which is why it pains me not to give more stars to this book, because as much as I liked the characters, I also couldn't overlook the rest. Mainly:
- The plot holes. Because much time is spent with the characters (which is a good thing), too little is spent on the backstory, and the latter in turn looks very simplistic and cliché. Bad guy uses his money to acquire private companies and get the government to trust him, then surprises everybody with an army of clones, seizes power, and stuffs all the population of Great Britain into prison-cities. OK, I get a villain having a desire for power, but it still felt "empty". Also, clones wouldn't prevent another country from simply nuking his factories from above, so... What was the rest of the world doing?
- The bad guys in general were pretty cliché, too, especially Nat and Oliver. They made me laugh and roll my eyes more than thrilled me.
- The last point is one I hate making (although, to be fair, I've noticed this in other stories as well): when the main characters' neuroatypical aspects were mentioned, I most often found it too... didactic, so to speak. I have the same feeling when non-binary characters, for instance, are portrayed the same way: it screams "must show the readers how this character is trans/asexual/non-binary/etc., but surely most readers have no clue and are too lazy to do their own research, so let's spell it for them." Same thing here, only in this case, of course, it was about Asperger's, or Down's syndrome. And I get it, I really do: it's definitely hard to find the right balance, the one where enough is explained for most readers to receive the right information (and not lose them if, indeed, they don't care about doing some research), yet without slamming it in their faces either. Still, the fact remains that it tended to throw me out of my reading here.
Conclusion: 2.5 stars because of the clichés/holes and the explanatory tone. But without that, for the sheer entertaining factor and the very likeable characters, I'd have rated this book higher.