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Outlaw School by Rebecca Ore
This was our SF discussion group book for the month. I'd read it before and pretty much had the same impression. I think the book was longer and someone told her to make it shorter, so the second half has an accelerated pace. There's a lot of telling. It's a story of someone who doesn't conform in a very regimented caste society. Ore stacks the decks, though, in the way she makes the society; the most unrealistic part being that there was no state religion. Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale also stacks the deck, but much more realistically.
I normally enjoy non-conformity stories, but this one was set-up too heavily to work. Nobody in our group liked it, and fewer than half of us finished it.
(I love Ore's Becoming Alien, Being Alien, and Human to Human series, but I don't like a lot of her newer books.)