Candid & Compelling: Reviewing The Measure by Nikki Erlick

by Theja Pk
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Last updated on May 15th, 2024

In this review, we’ll be taking a look at the international bestseller, The Measure by Nikki Erlick.

This novel offers an honest exploration of the human experience, with all its ups and downs. In her debut novel, Erlick presents a candid and refreshing perspective on facing our own mortality and the fragility of our existence.

This compelling and fascinating book poses the question: If a box arrived on your doorstep that could reveal how many years of life you have left, would you open it?

The Measure – Nikki Erlick

5 out of 5
book cover of the measure by nikki erlick showing a bouquet of black and blue flowers and leaves tied with a white string, resting against a yellow-orange background

GENRE: Literary fiction, science fiction
PUB DATE: June 28, 2022
TROPE: dystopian world

This compelling and fascinating book poses the question – if a box arrived on your doorstep that could reveal how many years of life you have left, would you open it?

5 out of 5
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
Overall Enjoyment
5 out of 5
5 out of 5


Eight ordinary people. One extraordinary choice.

It seems like any other day. You wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and head out.

But today, when you open your front door, waiting for you is a small wooden box. This box holds your fate inside: the answer to the exact number of years you will live.

From suburban doorsteps to desert tents, every person on every continent receives the same box. In an instant, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy. Where did these boxes come from? What do they mean? Is there truth to what they promise?

As society comes together and pulls apart, everyone faces the same shocking choice: Do they wish to know how long they’ll live? And, if so, what will they do with that knowledge?

The Measure charts the dawn of this new world through an unforgettable cast of characters whose decisions and fates interweave with one another: best friends whose dreams are forever entwined, pen pals finding refuge in the unknown, a couple who thought they didn’t have to rush, a doctor who cannot save himself, and a politician whose box becomes the powder keg that ultimately changes everything.


The Measure takes us through the perspectives of 8 different characters with varying string lengths (which is what the mysterious wooden boxes contain), whose lives beautifully intertwine with each other.

The “long-stringers” are are able to lead a full life of 70-80 years while the lives of “short-stringers” are tragically cut short.

Nikki Erlick did a fantastic job crafting these characters, making them relatable and realistic. I found myself coming back over and over again just to read more about their lives.

Each character has their own unique way of dealing with their string length, and it was fascinating to see how they coped with their situations.

The following are just a few examples of the deeply personal challenges that are brought to light in this book:

  • Is it ok for a short stringer to want a child knowing they will put the child through grief?
  • Is it ok for a long stringer to break up with a short stringer because they want a partner who will be by their side as long as humanly possible?
  • As a parent, how do you deal with knowing you will outlive your child?
  • As a protective older sibling, how do you cope with the fact that you can’t protect your younger sister or brother from dying before you? 
  • Does marrying a short stringer mean the measure of your love is proportional to the length of your relationship?

While initially, I had a hard time following all the numerous characters, I later found it to be the perfect number of POVs needed to convey the author’s intended messages.

With fewer characters, there would have been something missing, and with more, there would not have been enough time to get emotionally invested in everyone’s story.

The Ripple Effect

What makes this book so impactful and captivating is how the author not only delves into the characters’ individual struggles but also highlights the societal implications that reverberate through every possible industry and facet of life.


  • Should short-stringers run for office knowing they might not complete their term? 
  • Does having a long string guarantee that your political term will be impactful simply because of its length?
  • Should you even tell the public about your string length, or is it too private a matter to disclose?


  • Is it not unfair for short-stringers to be denied loans or suffer increased insurance premiums simply because of an unlucky fate?
  • Is it fair for short-stringers to be denied jobs, training, and university spots simply because they won’t live long enough to contribute back to society?


  • The burden on healthcare workers and hospital resources because of the increased influx of short stringers coming into the Emergency Room worried about their health, despite having no symptoms 
  • Where do you draw the line between helping a short stringer and turning them away simply because of the limited hospital resources? 

Even though this book may sound depressing, I promise you it’s not. It’s hopeful, inspiring, and absolutely profound. 

Parallels to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Reading about how everyone reacted to the strings individually and as a society reminded me a lot about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chaos that ensued saw everyone turning to persons in power (political leaders) and knowledgeable members of society (scientists and doctors) for answers.

And the conspiracy theories surrounding the strings, such as the idea that aliens sent them, brought me back to the days when people said the COVID-19 vaccine was the government’s way of putting a tracker in your brain. 

But thanks to the resilience and adaptability of human nature, everyone eventually adjusted to a world where strings (or covid) were just another part of life. They may even forget how life was before it existed.


Julia Whelan did an outstanding job with the characters in this book. I loved how she gave each character a unique tone and accent, which made it easy to distinguish who was speaking.

Her portrayal of emotions for each character was truly captivating and made the reading experience so much more enjoyable. Definitely a book I’d recommend in audio format.

Best Quotes

  • If forever doesn’t exist, we’ll invent it ourselves.
  • I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day – E. B. White
  • It is not the length of life, but the depth of life – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • if you live your life with enough passion and boldness, then that’s what you’ll be remembered for. Not the crap that happened along the way.
  • But maybe that’s not the only measure we have. Maybe there are thousands of other ways we could measure our lives—the true quality of our lives—that lie within us, not within some box. And, by your own measure, you can still be happy. You can live well.


The Measure is an incredibly thought-provoking book that delves into complex issues reflecting human nature and society. It challenges us to confront our mortality and urges us to cherish every moment.

Through emotional and captivating characters, the story unveils the painful truth that humans exist on a spectrum of emotions, flaws, and insecurities, ultimately shaping how we cope with reality.

Despite our differences, these very flaws and emotions unite us at our core. And while chaos and uncertainty can bring out some of the worst traits in people, it also can bring out the best.

If you’re looking to add a great book to your next book club read, then definitely give this one a try.

Enjoyed this review? Then be sure to add ‘The Measure’ to your TBR. And if you have already read this book and have some thoughts to share, drop them in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

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