The Bees; Laline Paull
You may have seen this book, and thought: how good can a book about bees be? And decided to pass on it. But this book, is, I promise, complex and human and amazing.
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Flora 717 is supposed to be the lowest caste of bees, mute and obedient, and none too bright. But Flora is different–so different only an experiment by one of the Queen’s priestesses saves her life in a world where mutation and uselessness is violently removed. But the hive is struggling, and Flora might just be a tool to save it. She moves from task to task, working wherever she’s most needed.
In the beginning, she is fierce in her devotion to Queen and hive, but gradually something changes–something is very wrong, and growing worse as time passes. She might not be able to fix the problem, even if she can discover it. And somehow, against her will, she has committed the gravest sin in the hive–and hidden her secret, hoping it will never be discovered.
While these bees can’t be called human, being most definitely insects, acting as a hive does, with the concerns you would expect to feed and care for all the bees in it. They’re still surprisingly easy to relate to, with complex emotions, wishes and desires, fears and struggles… and most of all, secrets. Flora isn’t an abstract idea of a protagonist, but drags you right into the story, rushing you along with her triumphs, and making your heart beat faster at her peril.
As I said, this is more than a book about bees. It’s a book about the importance of family and the strength of love. It explores sacrifice, redemption, and working for a common good without being sappy–balancing it with the wisdom to reject the lies meant to keep the peace when they lead to stagnation.