The Gender Game- Bella Forrest

A friend recommended I check out this book, and as the kindle edition is currently only 99p on Amazon I thought I’d give it a go. The first thing to say is that it is not a great work of literature, the language is a little basic, and certain phrases and descriptions are repeated too often which feels clunky. Having read the whole book, I’m still not sure if it’s a YA novel but the lack of literary nuance suggests that probably it is.

The storyline picks up in a similar but not as well orchestrated vein as The Handmaid’s Tale or even The Hunger Games; a dystopian future where the population is spit into two societies – a matriarchy and a patriarchy, and explores some basic ideas about the horrors which might unfold if each such system was followed to its logical and most extreme conclusion. The set up is interesting enough and the main protagonist provides the site of struggle in the form of Violet, a young delinquent woman with violent tendencies who during the course of the book ends up on the run from both civilisations.

She is not the most likeable protagonist, perhaps for me because she is so unlike I am so I find it difficult to identify with her, and perhaps simply because she is a teenager prone to bouts of stubbornness and bloody mindedness which as an adult tend to invoke eye rolling and long sighs!

Its worth noting too that as a gender studies scholar, there are a great many holes which can be picked in Forrest’s depiction of her dystopia; why is it assumed that violence is a male trait? Why do the male society ride around on motorbikes? There simply isn’t enough engagement, analysis or deep thought about the issues. But if taken as I suspect it is indented, as a book designed to be thought provoking for a YA audience it serves its purpose. I am particularly impressed that it raises the question of what happens to those people who do not identify with either side of this false dichotomy so I think it simply must be read with a large pinch (handful) of salt and evaluated for what it is.

When I came to read the book in this way, I enjoyed the plot twists and was happy to keep turning the pages. I was hooked enough to have downloaded the next one in the series. In short, if you enjoy books in this genre, it won’t change your life, but it might help to while away a couple of hours. 3/5



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