Borrowed from my local library.
In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.
It’s impossible not to feel the comparison to Atwood’s ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ in this book, and I like that. I think Atwood has become such a strong staple in this SF/dystopian ‘genre’ (I’m using these terms loosely) that it’s high time she steps up next to Orwell as a source of inspiration. True?
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
I liked the idea of being given ‘options’ (if you can call them that). It’s still relatable, even at an extreme, reminicent of afternoons spent with the career’s advisor at school and classmates suddenly turning competitive and vicious and superior about it all.
Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
It took me a long time to really ‘click’ with Freida. I could appreciate the kinds of things I felt the text was trying to tell me about young girls and the pressures forced upon them etc. But I found Freida a little… vapid at first. Is that fair? I think so. She grew on me though, the further away from the ‘norm’ she deviated. Isabel, however, was enthralling. I loved her character and how her story unfolded. I thought the relationship between Isabel and Freida was brilliantly conceived.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
Like I said, Isabel has such a compelling story that I forgave the prattling and tittering that went on between the other girls. The dialogue between the other girls made for an interesting and, to be fair, accurate representation of how ‘girls’ can interact. And by this I mean the highly excited and extreme way ‘girls’ can be perceived/expected to be. But I found some of the conversation a little tedious.
Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.
The ending of this book SLAYED ME! Bleak. Dark. Desperate. And so perfect. Just when you think she’s found some kind of ‘peace’ if not a HEA, the last few pages come to smack you in the face.
For me the last quarter of this book made up for what I felt was a mediocre first half. I thought the setting was well used and I enjoyed the familiarity of the girls’ routines and there were some really quirky (and let’s face it, disturbing) objects they interacted with.
The turning point for me personally was when Freida began to royally fuck things up, but by only doing things that I might have done in the same situation. It’s those moments when you know what will keep you safe, but your heart tells your brain to ‘do one’ and you end up in a difficult mess to climb out of. I really don’t want to give anything away, but my heart was right with her, being squeezed and torn out.
A thought provoking read which felt slow in parts but the ending slaps you so hard… I can almost forgive it everything. *rubs cheek… still sore*
I can see why this won the YA Book Prize 2015, it’s really great writing, just maybe not quite the right fit for me. A happy 4 out of 5 for this one.