A debut young-adult novel set in a militaristic, sexist society.
Sixteen-year-old Annabelle lives in a world where the government oversees her every move. America has undergone a second civil war, and Annabelle, her adoptive mother and her beloved sister Janine, live in Knoxville, Tenn., a city run by the all-female Tenn-tucky mech forces. The mechs’ mission: to protect their borders, rescue females and capture males. Annabelle is told that the male species is both inferior and a deadly threat. But although she, like everyone else, is expected to faithfully obey militaristic rule at all times, her heart won’t let her do so. When she was 3, her father was killed by the mechs, and her mother was imprisoned for life for attempting to save him. Although Annabelle loves and respects her adoptive mother, a senator who serves as a voice of reason in their community, she can’t respect the society that destroyed her parents. She repeatedly tries to find her biological mother and help the few males that are left, but when she’s caught too many times, she’s forced to join the mechs herself. Her final test is to fight a brute—a male monster—to the death. Readers will easily engage with this well-written tale. Annabelle is believably stubborn, yet also vulnerable and likable. Erlick also paints other characters vividly; for example, Dara, a mech and Annabelle’s nemesis, is so nasty that readers may find their skin crawling whenever she enters a scene. The novel has plenty of action and suspense, made all the more thrilling due to the investment readers have in the characters. The novel’s psychological elements keep things interesting, as well; the fact that Annabelle must join the force that killed her father, and try to remain an individual in a society that praises sameness, certainly has an effect on her. Readers will likely think about this society long after finishing the book.
A stimulating, worthwhile story of a dystopian future.