Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 406
Add on Goodreads
Frieda lives in a world both different and very similar to the world we live in. Girls are no longer born but created in a lab and trained their entire lives to fit into one of three duties: a companion, a concubine, or a chaisty. The duty of companion and mother of sons is the most sought after, and every girl at Frieda's school is fighting for one of the ten spots available. Frieda has always been ranked second, underneath her best friend Isabel, until suddenly Isabel begins to pull away and Frieda begins to slip in the rankings. Her only options are get back on top anyway she can, or live her life in one of the other thirds, or worse, be sent underground.
I bought this book a couple of years ago when I heard it described as the YA version of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which is one of my favorite novels of all-time, and I finally got around to reading it. I follow Louise O'Neill on Twitter where she is such a vocal supporter of women's rights that it reminded me of this book sitting on my shelf and inspired me to pick it up.
I agree that this novel has similar themes to Atwood's, but I don't think this is a "rip-off" or "teenage version" of that novel (as some of the reviews I have seen claim) as it deals with a lot of different ideas and themes as well as the overall common themes of feminism. I feel like some readers just lump every book that has a theme of feminism as one-in-the-same which is of course not true. Within the topic of feminism there are tons of different ideas, theories, themes, and challenges, and this novel does a great job of showcasing that.
This is a dystopian future where females are valued for their beauty above all else, and secondly comes reproduction. This book is disturbing and jarring and a little too real. This book has so many elements of our current society in it that it begins to become more reality than fiction. This book deals with female-female competition, body image, relationships with food/ harmful eating habits/ sex and consent and so much more. It's a difficult read at times, but it's so compelling you won't be able to put it down. I read it in two sittings because I had to know how it was going to end.
The end of this novel was fantastic. I really didn't know what was going to happen, and what did happen was jarring and impactful in the perfect way. This book is a great addition to the conversation around women's rights, and I think it's a great YA read. I love both this book and The Handmaid's Tale and young girls reading either of these novels makes me very happy. I respect YA novels that deal with heavy topics like this because it allows young readers to access and think about themes that they wouldn't discover if they didn't read adult books. I see no reason that adult and young adult can't cross-over and deal with heavy topics.
I'm really interested in O'Neill's works and plan on picking up her second novel (also dealing with feminism in regards to rape and consent) very soon. I'm excited to see what she does in the future as I think she has a lot of potential and the courage to say what needs to be said.