A young woman helps a boy escape from her all-female society in Erlick’s (The Rebel Within, 2013) YA novel.
After the Second American Civil War, women have ousted men from their society, pushing them to the Outlands or imprisoning them in various jails. Sixteen-year-old Annabelle lands herself in trouble when, during an arena fight as part of her military training, she allows the boy she’s battling to live. This gets her kicked out of the elite Mech Corps—or so she and her Commander, Sam, want everyone to think. In reality, she’s been assigned a mission to spy on Capt. Voss and Lt. Brita Scarlatti of the city police, who may be up to something illegal. Thanks to various technological implants, Annabelle’s Commander can hear and see everything she does. Meanwhile, she also lives with the burden of keeping everything secret from her sister, Janine. Morgan, the boy she allowed to survive, hacks into the implants, and asks her to help him rescue his brother. With so many voices in her head, Annabelle loses much of her agency, and can’t make any progress on her own investigations, which include finding her birth mother and finding out who’s been attempting to murder her adoptive mom. Annabelle doesn’t even seem well-suited to her assignment: “I can’t do this spying you want. I’m no good at it,” she says to Sam, who agrees, which may make it difficult for readers to see what makes her special. Annabelle’s story often moves at a sluggish pace, as her rambling introspection waters down the drama. However, Erlick sets his characters in a well-thought-out science-fiction world; in this all-female society, for example, scientific advances such as “egg-fusion” allow women to have children without men. The prose also maintains a straightforward clarity, and its intrigue is sufficiently complicated without being confusing.
A slow but often inventive dystopian sci-fi drama.