This is a YA book with a female protagonist aged 16/17 years old. The premise is that this is set at a different time. Because of fertility issues women now only give birth to boys and there are not many of them. The school that the main character, freida, attends is situated in the Eurozone. She is amongst 30 girls created the year that 10 boys were born. Thirty are created in an artificial environment to allow for 10 “companions” to be selected by the males born that year – they will birth their sons. Those males will then select from the remaining 20 the concubines and any left overs will become chastities – the teachers at the school.
The book follows frieda as she moves through her last year at school towards the choosing. The girls live effectively in isolation, their rooms are mirrored and their daily photograph on the way to class sees them voted on to provide regular ratings. frieda is well used to not being number 1 though her friend isobel has always been no.1. When the story starts isobel is not herself, in fact she is getting fatter and fatter and fat girls should be obsolete (the voices in the walls tell them throughout the night!). frieda doesn’t know what is wrong with isobel who shuts her out leaving frieda to now navigate the politics of life at school with only other teenage girls obsessed with image, rankings, what they wear, how fat they are and whether the men will find them pretty. They all have their own computers and regularly take photos of their food to post on line as well as taking part in on line votes about who wore it better.
This is a book I came across when researching my recent favourite dystopian novels and it is a very well thought of piece of YA fiction. I have to say that when I finished it I was quite appalled by it and felt quite low about it. It really does hold a light up to our current society. Reading it I though thank goodness I wasn’t bothered about all that popular girl shit at school but then I realised I had come into that world when I left and found it in the police. God there were some utter bitches there who just worried about how thin they were or whether anyone found them attractive. Finding self worth from someone saying you are pretty is really the most depressing thing!
And that is why the book works so well. It’s depressing because it is depressing!!!!! It is terrifying to think that there is a good chance that this is where we are going to be honest. With too many young girls worrying about whether their brows are banging or how many likes their posts get rather than being kind to people and learning maths. This image obsessed society we live in can be so shallow and this book highlights that. Definitely worthy of being passed on to all the 16 year old girls you know!