In Cohagan’s dystopian theocracy of New York City, women and girls wear face-covering veils and modest clothes and are forbidden to read, and the men wear beards and tunics.
The author further underlines this state of affairs with a public call to prayer and references to the Prophet, who is referred to as “Her.” However, the Prophet’s edicts and the society upon which they’re based are deeply patriarchal if not lethally misogynistic, with a woman publicly stoned for infidelity early on. On the day of her Offering, in which her family introduces her to prospective husbands, white, 15-year-old Mina Clark attempts to rescue the stoning victim while carrying a contraband Primer, from which her grandmother covertly teaches her to read. As the stoning becomes a melee, Mina is rescued by Juda, the manservant of Damon Asher, scion of a wealthy family to whom Mina ends up unwillingly betrothed. Could an all-women’s cult called the Laurel Society, anti-veil and anti-male, be a refuge for her? Cohagan claims ecumenical intentions in an author's note, stating that she bases her fictional theocracy on several religions in the United States and the world. However, while it’s possible to see traces of Orthodox Judaism and the Amish, for example, she seems to mostly borrow her ideas not only from current, media-driven stereotypes about Islam, but also the Western feminist–driven idea that Islam inherently oppresses observant Muslim women who wear the hijab and other modest clothing.
Girl power need not be Islamophobic—but this book is. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)