The novel is narrated by Klara, an AF or Artificial Friend who is designed to be a companion to a child. She is purchased by Josie, a 14-year-old who like most other children has been “lifted”, which is a genetic modification that augments children’s intelligence. Most children are lifted in this society, and they receive tutoring at home on “oblongs” and need “interaction meetings” with other kids to learn social skills. Josie is ill and her family expect her to die. Klara is solar powered and thus worships the Sun like a god, and she bargains with the Sun to save Josie.
Klara is portrayed as a naïve but analytical person who does not understand emotions, but has a strong sense of duty towards Josie and the Sun. When Klara cannot analyse what she sees, she experiences the world as being divided into partitions, highlighting the non-human vision for the reader, although Klara herself never perceives this partitioning as unusual.