In her debut novel, Haworth creates a post-apocalyptic America where gender prejudice rules society.
Cloistered in the few cities that have survived in a world devastated by a major—and somehow forgotten—environmental disaster, the human race has also forgotten the concept of what a “woman” is. People born with the misfortune of two X chromosomes are called “Y-negatives” and treated as inferior, forced to have children via “surrogacies,” then sterilized and turned out into the world as “andros” who constantly shoot up with testosterone to emulate the dominating “mascs.” Class, status, and opportunity divide sharply along these gender lines, and heterosexuality is an aberration. The worldbuilding is heavy on dystopian detail but lacks a sense of logical continuity or believability beyond the immediate storyline. Why is the world like this? Nobody seems to know. Certainly not Ember, an andro who feels that he is really a masc, or Jess, a masc with a sympathetic nature and privileged upbringing. When the two start falling for each other while on a maintenance trip through the desolate wilderness of Arkansas, they find themselves struggling against society’s vicious prejudices as well as their own, in between repairing scientific equipment and fighting off “scavengers” from a mysterious settlement. The novel alternates between their first-person voices, and both Jess and Ember are unfortunately grating and frequently dim. Without brightly drawn characters or energetic voices, the story slogs through stale romantic incident and awkward, unsophisticated prose. Instead of offering insight into gender and sexuality, Haworth creates a world that has eradicated femininity without making a strong statement about why it chose to do so.
A clunky dystopian novel that tries to tell a story about love defying prejudice but fails to imagine it with any believability.