I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date is November 16, 2015.
In the last surviving cities of a ruined world, the concept of “woman” has been forgotten to history. Those unfortunate enough to lack a Y chromosome live as second-class citizens in a world dominated by masks. Ember is Y negative. He is scorned, bullied, abused by every masc he encounters, at work and at the gym. Not even his Y negative roommate cuts him any slack. He wants so desperately to be accepted as a masc that he’d rather buy black market testosterone than food. Something’s gotta give—he needs a change in his life, but has no idea how to find it. Jess is a masc with a passion for studying the recovery of their devastated world. His boyfriend is pressuring him for more commitment, and his father expects him to take over the family business. He can’t wait to get away from civilization for his seasonal research out in the wild. When Jess offers Ember a job, their lives collide in the isolated wasteland, and their initial attraction turns into a relationship that horrifies those around them. Soon their struggle to stay together and to be who they are turns into a fight for their lives.
One of the things I loved about this book was that it really turned sexuality on its head. There are no women, at least none in the traditional sense. The people once called women are now called Y-Negatives. So for those born Y-Negative, they generally had women’s genitals. Or at least, they mutilated themselves so they would have them. Or something. I didn’t really get that part. A Y-Negative is forced to be a surrogate for the majority of their lives. Generally, guys hired surrogates, but they never saw them or interacted them. The surrogate is forced to have the baby, then the baby goes to the new parents and the surrogate never sees the baby at all. They are called Andros and then guys born with the Y chromosome are called mascs. If an andro is attracted to mascs, then they are called “het.” (Get it? Heterosexual?). And this is really, really frowned upon, kind of like some people frowning on homosexuality. Ember is one such andro. He doesn’t tell many people about his attraction to mascs because people frown on it. Mascs treat Andros like they aren’t people. Andros are basically a lower class of people. There were so many interesting concepts the author introduced regarding gender and sexuality that my head was spinning. It was interesting that behavior that would be classified as heterosexual is what is frowned upon in this society. The problem was that there was so much confusion and the author introduced many terms, but didn’t really explain them. For instance, there was yet another class of people (higher than an andro, apparently) who were exins. But I have no clue how an exin was different from an andro or a masc.
When Ember meets Jess (a masc), there is an instant attraction. Personally, I didn’t feel the chemistry. Jess was attracted pretty quickly and then there were declarations of love after a few weeks of knowing each other. Okay, so another part that confused me was the location of where everyone lived. I mean, I get they lived in Atlanta. But when Jess and Ember went somewhere for work (Kansas City, I think), there was still tons of acid rain and they had to be careful about being covered when outside. Then there were scavengers, who were people . . . who did something, somewhere and no one like them. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. I didn’t get why Atlanta was fine and everywhere else was dangerous. I didn’t understand why the scavengers were or what they were looking for or why there was a need for them to sign some kind of peace treaty. Then there was an allusion to a secret Jess’s father (a big researcher) was keeping and some kind of fraud or something. Seriously, so much missing information. I was totally and completely lost.
As far as the relationship between Jess and Ember, I don’t feel much time was put into it and I don’t feel like much changed. Ember was actually as disgusted with the Y-Negative body as anyone else. He took testosterone on a regular basis and was obsessed with working out so he could look like as much of a masc as possible. He was as prejudiced as anyone. But he never changed. He still had the same feelings at the end of the book. The ending was just sort of boring because nothing changed. Nobody’s feelings changed and it just fell flat.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.