Genesis, by Bernard Beckett (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009 in the US, 2006 in Australia, YA, 150 pages)
In 2051, a wealthy man created his ideal society on an isolated island far to the south. His "utopia" left no room for the individual to be an individual, with all the very human ambiguity that entails. Still, it functioned, keeping its inhabitants safe from the death and destruction that ended the rest of the world. Until a man named Adam changed it forever...
Years after Adam passed into legend, Anaximander, a candidate for the Academy, has chosen him as the subject of her entrance examination. Genesis tells her story, as she in turn tells Adam's story, and the conclusions she has drawn from it...and in the process, she learns that even the most logically consistent assumptions about the past can have powerful consequences that an individual cannot predict.
It surprised me just how gripping a book that essentially is a transcription of a four hour examination can be. Although it reads somewhat stiffly at first, the action moves progressively faster as Adam's story is told, and the Wham! of the ending packs one heck of a punch. Despite the framework of the story, which distances the reader from both Adam and Anax, Becket has made them fascinating and memorable characters. And this is one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in a while--the philosophical and ethical questions raised linger in the mind.
A few other reviews can be found at The Book Nest, Zogworld, The Book Smugglers (scroll down), and at the Guardian, where Patrick Ness says that it possesses "a palate-cleansing purity unusual in most young adult fiction." Although I don't think I would have come up with just that turn of phrase myself, I agree with his point--there is (I really mean it) a minty freshness to it....cold and crisp, yet compelling.