In a world where women are designed to be companions and concubines for men, they have no choices. Confined to institutions until they are seventeen, they spend their lives being judged against each other. Only the prettiest, thinnest, most obedient girls will be chosen as companions. The rest must only hope they are good enough to be concubines, serving as playthings for men for the rest of their lives.

I am pretty. I am a good girl. I always do as I am told.

I have mixed feelings about this book. For the first half, it felt like the worst season of Next Top Model ever. The girls, and women, are their own worst enemies in this world. For 17 years, they live in a female only environment, facing the inevitable future of being controlled by men. Why do they not spend that time supporting each other? Instead they undermine each other at every turn.

The pressures that young women put themselves under is very real, and take away the bizarre breeding program, their tale is playing out across many high schools even today. The media and our peers have as much to blame for the pressures as men, many of which probably don’t have any idea what a thigh gap is, let alone why it would make a difference. And these girls have only ever been told second hand what men want, never given the chance to get to know them as individuals, never given the chance to realise they might want something different too. There is a glimpse that the boys are being manipulated too, although this is not their story.

I do this every morning, a part of me hoping that I’ll have been magically transplanted into a different body during the night – isabel’s or megan’s maybe. That I’ll wake up and be paler, thinner, different. Better.

Pitting the girls against each other, stops any real friendships forming. They manipulate each other, trust no one and see their only salvation as a life of slavery to men. They never stop to wonder if they are wrong.

I found the institutionalised bullying very uncomfortable reading. It is one thing for the girls to do it, but not even having a fair authority figure in the chastities is horrible. There is anonymous cyberbullying, peer pressure and awful, shaming and exploitative media.

This is who we are. This is who we were designed to be. It’s all my fault for allowing myself to become vulnerable. It is all my own fault.

I cannot quite understand why all the girls weren’t severely underweight. They pride themselves on their self-restraint by not eating and many of their meals are “0 kcal”. Bulimia is encouraged; a vomitorium is even provided for the act. Yet they all have a target weight they have to maintain, not going over, or under and too skinny is also pointed out as unattractive.

I’m not convinced that I believed in this world. It is a cautionary tale where everything is exaggerated. If women are designed and conditioned to be perfect for men, why do they spend so much time obsessing over fashion? Are these soulless, cruel women really going to make the best mothers? And why on earth were the worst kind of men left to keep the world going? It suffers a little from the YA dystopian tendency to have an idea to explore without developing the world to support it.

I’d advise that you feel in a good mental state when you read this. It’s not a fun read and there’s plenty that could trigger negative feelings. I’m not sure it challenges the behaviour enough. The negative behaviour is rewarded in the plot; those that don’t toe the line, get punished. Yes, the message is clear for my (mostly) grown-up brain but I can see how it could be taken the wrong way.

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Also reviewed @ prettybooks | ShinraAlpha | Uncorked Thoughts

Book Source: Purchased