Thursday, March 31, 2016

All Else Being Equal (It Never Is)

Review: The Last Girl by Joe Hart


The Amazon Prime program nets me goodies beyond free shipping; one of the best from my point of view is Kindle First. Once a month I can choose a free ebook from a small selection, most prior to full release. The selected authors get readers who will review (or at least rate) their books, which can give them a jump-start when the books are fully released.

Alas, my to-be-read (TBR) list routinely exceeds my available reading time. I selected Hart's novel as my Kindle First one month, tagged it into the "TBR" and "Review This" collections on my Kindle, and went back to the four or five books I was actively reading at the time.

I shouldn't have waited. The Last Girl is a stunning commentary on gender equality and the factors that make it difficult to achieve. The premise: a virus that has made it vanishingly difficult for girl-children to be carried to term. By the time Zoey and her friends are born, there are very few women left. The prepubescent girls live in a prison-like school, supported by women teachers, male mentors and their sons. The girls are all being groomed for the day they will "graduate." 

The problem is, no woman ever returns to the "school" to report what happens after graduation.

I kept being reminded of The Island, the movie with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson (which was supposedly based on the novel Spares by Michael Marshall Smith.) In the movie, clones are told that they are privileged to live on their idyllic island. Actually they are being held in reserve as spare parts for their donors. I wondered if, like Johansson and McGregor, Zoey would escape with her mentor's son, a sympathetic fellow who may have smuggled books (The Count of Monte Cristo, the ultimate escape fiction) and other contraband to her.

But the tale runs deeper than that; and even once she has won free of the sinister school and its graduation program, Zoey still is not liberated from the restrictions imposed by the scarcity of her gender. 

This novel is the first of a planned trilogy. The story stands well on its own, however, and the promise of additional novels is an added bonus. We'd like to find out if it's possible for Zoey to achieve an equality that doesn't deny the extra abilities of her gender.

If she can, there is hope for us all.