Looking at the book I want to say it is bad, but I just cannot do that. Neither can I say it is a good book. So, what is the book about? It is not easy to talk about the story without telling too much of it.
For starters let's just say it is the story of five-year-old Jack, who lives with his Ma in Room, and the adventures following his fifth birthday. When Jack was four he thought he knew the world, but with five everything has changed.
Jack is the narrator of the book. The reader only gets his point of view in his voice, that of a five-year-old. In general I like this practice, keeping the narrative voice true to the narrator instead of just writing from his viewpoint. But reading this book I never completely felt comfortable with the language he uses, it got on my nerves pretty soon. Later I discovered why that is. Jack's character is very smart for a five-year-old, he can read and write, memorize long and complex sentences, count and calculate. However, Emma Donoghue gives him bad grammar to show it is his voice. He seems incapable of using irregular verbs for the simple past properly and most of his questions are grammatically wrong. Whereas these are probably typical steps for a five-year-old acquiring English it is just disturbing as Jack is not like other children his age.
Chosing Jack as the narrator is a smart move though, because this way Donoghue can not only show us how he sees the world and thus question the things that are natural and normal for us, but it also allows her to minimize the horror of the events that happened to him and his Ma.
Sorry, this is cryptic, so I'll give you more of the story. Stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled and see for yourself.
Jack and his Ma were held captive in Room and they managed to escape. From then on Jack is in Outside, the real world, only he never knew there was a real world outside of Room. For him Room was the World and everything in it were the only real things that existed. Now he has to adjust his world-view and deal with other people. This is not easy for him, and he doesn't understand everything.
This is one of the aspects why I cannot say the book is all bad. Our world and actions are questioned, giving the reader a lot to think about. Unfortunately the whole thing is rather boring. The story appears to be a mere backdrop to these social and philosophical observations.
Jack's Ma is another story. She was locked up and abused for seven years. Jack doesn't really understand what has happened to her and why she doesn't miss Room like he does, but he registers her behavior and thus conveys a lot of her emotional distress to the reader. As I said before, this is a clever method of showing the damage that has been done to the mother, without forcing the reader to see it from her point of view and thereby experiencing her horrors first-hand. This, I personally would not want to read.
As you can see I'm a little torn here. Looking at what the book has to say, I think it has potential to start interesting discussions and reflections of our own life. But when it comes down to reading it, I was just bored most of the time, as it was rather predictable and slow. Even though I made some wrong predictions, and there were some unexpected twists in the story, the book never really got to me.