3.5 stars

I learned that once a plan is in place, everything can happen overnight.

The premise of this book is very disturbing. Your rational mind says “this could never happen in the U.S.”. But given the current political climate, there is a tiny voice in the back of your mind that whispers “…right? I mean, it really couldn’t happen, could it?” THAT is the most disturbing thing about this book. That tiny voice that skitters around in your mind while you lay in bed at night trying to fall asleep.

When the story begins, the President is working hand in hand with an ultra conservative religious leader. He’s instituted new enactments against women. Women can no longer hold jobs, read or use technology, including computers and cell phones. Girls are no longer taught to read or write in school, and are only taught to cook and clean. Worst of all, women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. They are fitted with wrist bands like FitBits that count their words. For every word they say over 100, they are delivered a shock through the wristband. The strength of the shocks intensify for every word over 100, until it ultimately kills the woman.

Dr. Jean McClellan was a renowned scientist at the top of her field, close to a huge breakthrough in a cure for a neurological disorder until the new enactments prevented her from continuing her work. After the President tells the country that his brother sustained a head injury and is in desperate need of a cure, he asks Jean to resume her work. Her wristband is removed, she’s allowed to speak, use a computer and read her old notes. Most importantly, she’s allowed to form her own team, which includes her former colleagues.

As Jean and her team work toward a cure, they are faced with a moral dilemma. What would you be willing to do to save your family? What would you be willing to sacrifice to save the world?

This isn’t the best dystopian novel I’ve read, but it’s really good. The writer gets bogged down in far too many scientific and technical things that most readers won’t understand. I found myself skimming over this stuff. The concepts were probably fun to research and write, but that level of detail isn’t really needed to move the story along. Outlining the general concepts is more than enough for this type of book.

The story is also a bit uneven. There is a lot of set up, but the actual action and conclusion is rushed and over simplistic. It’s almost as if the author was told that the book had to come in under 300 pages and she cut out huge portions of the book to meet this requirement. (It comes in at slightly over that, at 326 pages.)

I know that some people didn’t like the writing style, but I enjoyed it. I liked the short chapters and I liked Jean. I found her inner voice relatable and authentic. Many of the things she thought to herself are things that I thought. I also enjoyed reading about Jean’s relationship with her college roommate Jackie. Who hasn’t had that one ultra political friend that we haven’t occasionally rolled our eyes at behind their back?

Jackie may have been written at the extreme end of the spectrum with no moderation, but Jean’s tepid response to Jackie’s activism is one that we can all relate to. The fact that Jackie’s worst fears and predictions came true is also a wake up call. In the current political climate, we now see things every day treated as normal that just 3-4 years ago we never thought we would allow. This book is a cautionary tale that it’s a slippery slope to a scary new world when we don’t stay vigilant.

I recommend you read this book.