As soon as I read the premise for this novel, I knew I had to give it a go. This story was literally marketed as “perfect for a fan of Margaret Atwood” … and I am definitely a fan of Atwood’s work. Another thing I found out about this author and this book that made me interested in reading it is that Margaret Atwood was this author’s mentor and had really loved this novel. What better endorsement could I ask for? So I got myself a copy… and now, here is my review:
The world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But on a day like any other, something has happened, something that will cause the lives of these individuals to converge. Teenage girls have developed an immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.
The concept for this novel is absolutely brilliant. I love the idea of girls and women having an incredible ability, lying dormant in their bodies until something causes it to just come alive. And this novel is really a testament for how it only takes one to cause a revolution. The story is told from alternating perspectives where each of the characters mentioned here (and maybe some others) get a chance to tell the story from their point of view. There is only one male voice that is a main character: the rich Nigerian boy, Tunde. All of the other characters are female and they all have their own unique personalities that really comes through when they get their moment in the spotlight. I’m going to tell you right now: the strange power that females in this novel have is the ability to produce and channel electricity inside of their bodies. With this power, they can kill or hurt or shock anyone. Now, women are more powerful than men and they are using it to their advantage. The whole story is about reimagining the world: what would it be like if women were now in control instead of men? How would that takeover happen and how successful would it be? And the author really takes the time to answer this question through a multitude of issues from terrorism to politics to religion. I really appreciated the time and effort that went into cementing this concept. But this wasn’t really a story. It was more of a documentary or a research paper if anything else. In fact, this novel was shaped as a book proposal being submitted by someone named Nell to Naomi Alderman for review, which I thought was interesting … but also just made it less of a story and more research-like. The novel doesn’t allow for a great deal of emotional connection with the characters, and the story dragged on after the initial high-intensity chapters. There were a lot of cliché moments in the novel that took away from the novelty of it all. I guess I just wanted more story at times, and less of an explanation of the political situation. Overall, this was a fascinating concept and I liked a lot of the things the author had to say; I just wish the delivery of it all had been more story-like and less like a documentary. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars but really, the points are mostly just for the concept and the first half of the novel.