Reading Level/Genre:: Young Adult/Dystopian Fantasy
Publisher: June 22nd 2010 by Henry Holt and Co.
I'm at a loss. I don't know what to say about this book and I find it hard to summarize since I am unable to discern a central plot line, and that perhaps is my biggest complaint with this story- it was so very vague.
We have here a futuristic society of women who have reformed their own amazonian civilization and protect it fiercely against "the enemy". The enemy is of course, the men who raped and controlled the women of the past, before the Tribulation (end of the known world). The women of this society are also the only untainted, unmutated humans left who are still able to breed healthy children. Keller is being trained as a Tracker, a ranger of sorts who defends their lands from the enemy, and other than her being the story's narrator, it's only loosely about her. Eventually the focus shifts from the rules and regulations that dominate the novice trackers (and the story never really gets back to that) when some of the girls discover a hidden pre-Tribulation dwelling that contains mysterious artifacts from the people of the past. One of the home's inhabitants was a teenage girl, like our novices, but so unlike them that her possessions enthrall and captivate the young trackers and force them to question what life must have been like for teenage girls pre-apocalypse and just how much is missing from the lives they know.
It was more a time line of vaguely connected events than one story but I was able to separate a few key elements.:
1. In the future, those of us (women), the ones that suffer no ill effects from whatever it was that destroyed the world, are forced to breed. Well, I would be shocked by this had I not already been shocked (with a high voltage taser) by it in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I abhorred.
2. Men are the enemy because they are believed to have controlled and raped the women of the past. However we have basically the same thing happening in this society where the rulers deal out forced artificial insemination, which all the girls live in fear of.
3. The girls discover the makeup, clothes, jewelry and other assorted frippery of a teenage girl from the past. Even when raised and bred in a new society of fierce, rugged women, we are still given to bouts of vanity and our superficial natures aren't really all that suppressed and we would easily throw all of our accomplishments away to be a beauty queen. Keller and her friends were not the only ones plagued with vanity in the story- The commissioner wore colorful flowing skirts and had a rather luxurious bedroom. Keller felt herself to be too ugly to compete in a contest of beauty but still longed to be able to. We never really get far from ourselves, even in the future.
4. The Commissioner, (the one in charge) who was ravenous in her disdain for biblical teachings and its anti-feminist overtones, approached her campaign to make her people as unlike the women who she felt the Bible portrayed with so much venom that in retrospect made her just as much a religious zealot as those she strove against. (You know I hate religion in my fiction.)
5. Even the hardest of their kind succumbed to baser instincts and sought male companionship and desired the comfort that comes with being wanted. Shallow or not, I appreciated the inclusion of the softer elements that make us female and feminine even in the harsh time portrayed in the story.
The book didn't answer a single question- not about what happened, not about what was happening, not about what would happen. Still, I can accept the ending as is, shrouded in mystery and keeping with the ambiguous air that ran throughout the story if she doesn't follow this with a sequel, which I don't feel the book warrants. Only then could I believe that the story was intentional.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I didn't dislike this book, I just didn't get it. It's dystopian YA Lit so you WANT to read it and I think you should.
I would be happy to pass along my slightly weathered ARC to a seasoned BOOK BLOGGER who lives in the US in hopes that they would be able to give it a more thorough review. Email me.