Tuesday, 10 April 2018



by Christina Cigala

2 out of 5

In a world divided by gender allegiance, two young women navigate dangerous new terrain.

The Gender Wars won’t be fought with machines—they’ll be fought with people. And when the women of West America wage war with men in the East, it’ll be anything but unimaginative.

In East America, the most fertile women go through excruciating body- and mind-altering training until their identities satisfy that of the State. They are the “Nancys”—white hair, light eyes, and no way to differentiate themselves from their identical “sisters.” Nancy159 is fifteen. She’s auditioning to be the seventh wife of President X, the ruler of the Eastern States. If she wins, she’ll be married to the most powerful man in the world; if she loses, she’ll die.

Avis Baron is the daughter of the Luminary of West America. Recently, she stopped taking her Amplexus pill, taken by all women in W.A. to control their emotions. It turns out there's a lot she didn't know a person could feel—especially the way she's feeling about her friend Ethan.

What is the source of a woman’s power? Does it come from fertility, like the Nancys suggest? Does it come from brute strength and cold calculation, like the West believes? Or could it just be the simple beat of your own heartsong?

The world continues to collapse and the Gender Wars loom on the horizon…XX v. XY.

In East America, Nancy159 is the forerunner in a grotesque televised show where she "wins" the chance to be the president's next wife. Meanwhile, in West America, Avis is doubting the strict, utilitarian existence that has been created by the matriachal society.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked the premise of this story.
You have two fifteen-year-old girls growing up on opposite sides of America, after war has torn it apart, creating a definite divide between the male-dominated East, and female-dominated West.

East America is a picture-perfect version of the 1950's, where women have been reduced to the roles of wives, housemakers and mothers. They are not allowed to read, or learn. They can't watch anything that isn't pre-approved. Worst of all, they are put into "training", where they are brainwashed to be perfect Stepford wives.
They are all called Nancy, and even Nancy159 has already had numerous surgeries to bleach her skin and give her mature curves, blonde hair and dainty features. Just like all the other Nancys.

West America has taken Feminism to the extreme. Women are in charge, and their intelligence is celebrated. This is not a forward-thinking haven though. They all take drugs to remove any "weak" emotions, so they can be more focused on the success of individuals and society as a whole. They treat men like slaves, and dispose of them at the slightest infraction. They are also blinkered and stubbornly refuse to accept that gender fluidity exists.

This all sounds like an awesome stage for an amazing story...
And it all honestly fell flat. It was so disappointing.

It's hard to pin down why it didn't work. I think there was so much time and passion put into the premise that nothing was left for the characters and plot.
The characters are all bland and forgettable. Especially Avis, and everybody in West America. There was no depth or development throughout the book; and no personality to make them stand out.
Which you can argue is the point, with East ladies being brainwashed by men; and West ladies having emotions removed by drugs; but it made it hard for me to connect with anyone.

The plot was... pretty much following Nancy159 as she goes through this grotesque beauty pageant, so she can be the seventh wife of (an old, lecherous, abusive) President, and join his six other wives (who all look identical to her).
This part of the story is fleshed out, and the most interesting part.
Unfortunately, just as much time is spent in West America, but the focus is still on Nancy159, and their plot isn't developed any further.
The characters are moved like pieces on a chessboard. Avis & co need to be in East America to rescue Nancy159, so they are.

It kinda made sense when I read that the author is a screenwriter, and has worked to produce lots of material for tv and theatre. I can see this making a good visual statement, it just didn't translate into a great novel.


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