Another debut. Another dystopia. Another leading man called by a number.
In Bodger’s soft dystopia, years of legislation restricting families to one child has resulted in a significant imbalance—roughly six boys to every one girl. In Koyanagar, a walled city-state formed on the edge of India in 2042, the small coterie of women in charge has created a series of tests to select the boys who will be lucky enough to win wives. A lottery determines competitors; girls are primped while boys compete, with death as a possible outcome; and no one is happy (sound familiar?). Sudasa narrates in poetry, and Contestant Five (readers do not learn his name until the very end, unless they read the flap copy that completely destroys that particular element of suspense) narrates in prose. They both hate the Tests and wish there were another way. Contestant Five could win but doesn’t want to; Sudasa just wants to live her life. It’s a match, although neither of them immediately sees how they can help each other. Set over just three days, this novel is a mishmash of tropes that have been done better elsewhere, sophomoric poetry that uses typographic elements for emphasis (“n#mber”), and weak characterization with about as much Indian flavor as the curry powder supermarkets sold in the 1950s.
Like most of the boys in the Tests, this one can’t compete. (Dystopian romance. 10-14)