Synopsis: 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.
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
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.
Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. .
Warning: Spoilers be ahead!
One word: Weird.
That’s really how I can describe it.
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Let me start from the top.
A friend had recommended the book to me, mostly because she wanted to talk about it with someone, and I decided to give it a go. I thought I’d skim through it but I ended up finishing the whole thing in one night. It got me hooked! It’s not your basic dystopian YA fiction (in fact, it was shortly reintroduced as adult fiction after people deemed the themes much to adult to be YA [???? stupid]), and there are a lot of feminist themes if you squint, but I did feel uncomfortable reading through it because.. Well, it seems like, no matter how silly that sort of future seems like now, it’s something that could actually happen what with the misogyny and sexism still existing in our world today…. Scary.
Reading through the book, I guessed correctly about why isabel was so secretive, but I never saw that ending coming. It was weird. It made me go back and read the last few pages again. It pissed me off.
But I guess we can’t have the protagonist starting revolutions in all dystopian novels…
The author really did well with the world building, though we only got to see what was happening from freida’s point of view. I felt disgusted while reading through it, thanks to a lot of little details that just built on how messed up the situation was. Some of the problems faced by the characters were so shallow until you realise that they could destroy their future (or have none at all!) if they put on just a little bit of weight… None of the names of the women were even capitalised, just to show how women were not important at all in the book. Good touch.
I think O’Neill could have explained the relationship between freida and isabel better, especially as the synopsis makes it seem like the story revolves around them, but it’s really more about freida just trying to survive. Were their feelings of a romantic nature or did they see each other as sisters? I felt romance vibes from isabel and plain obsession and jealousy from freida.
All in all, good read, but prepare yourself for a messed up ending.
I think I want to read O’Neill’s next book, but don’t know if I could stomach it. Let’s see.