Julie Ruiz Ruiz de Холмеч, Belarus
Birth, School, babymaker slave, death- Birth, school, work, death, was the chorus in an old song by The Godfathers, I'm not sure why I was thinking about it as I read this book, but somehow it seemed appropriate. Such is the world of Eve, valedictorian and budding artist. Eve is one of the orphaned girls who lives in a walled school protected from the violent gangs of men, rabid dogs and plagues in the outside world. Eve isn't a rebel, she knows that life will be full of hard work and she's grateful to be alive, millions of people died in the plague, including her mother and she's ready to work hard in the rebuilding and being at school is a part of that. For Eve the school is a place of knowledge, peace and routine that will help her to achieve her goal, that of artist in the City of Sand. The City of Sand is a legendary place, one that the girls in the school have been looking forward to their entire lives. Once they graduate, the girls are sent across the bridge to a large windowless building to begin their apprenticeships. Once their apprenticeships are done they can move to the city where everything is perfect and amazing (streets paved in gold, fountains of chocolate, unicorns farting rainbows, no really, it wasn't this over the top, but the city has been built up a lot). Eve spends a lot of time imagining what kind of work she'll be doing once she crosses the bridge. She and her friends Pip and Ruby have made plans to have an apartment together in the City of Sand, these thoughts sustain her through her crushing load of schoolwork but also help her endure the nausea, dizziness and cramping she and most all of the girls at school have from the 'necessary' vitamins and injections they are given on a daily basis (more about that later). But there is one girl at school who isn't twirling with happiness, Arden. Arden is out and out mean, selfish and rude, so Eve decides to follow her after the graduation banquet and finds out that Arden is escaping! Why would anyone want to leave? Eve, so curious, decides to check out the windowless building where the graduates go for their apprenticeships, what she finds inside is so hideous, so evil that there is only one thing she can do, escape. Now this is where the story really picks up. When I read about this book, I was certain that the big secret was going to be organ/body donation, that all the girls were being groomed to have their body parts farmed out. I'm so glad it wasn't that, I've gotten kinda tired of that storyline. -----Spoiler Alert----------- Really, don't read past this point. Shrugs philosophically, 'I warned ya!' Anyways, this is a story of forced repopulation. The injections are hormones that will make conception guaranteed and the girls in the building are strapped to beds while their bellies grow to sustain the multiple babies they are forced to bear. When Eve sees last year's valedictorian, Sophie, her belly grotesquely giant (think teen octomom), she runs. But life outside is bad, the school didn't lie about that. Eve sees a gang of violent men up close and faces starvation and dehydration as she stumbles around trying to make her way to Califia, land of freedom and safety that the school nurse told her about when she was helping Eve to escape. Along the way, Eve reconnects with Arden, who escaped the night of the graduation party, who isn't as awful as she'd always thought and is rescued from a grizzly bear by Caleb, a dreadlocked and dirty boy who hangs out around abandoned towns. Now this is where I ran into the first minor annoyance - character descriptions. There aren't enough. I just finished the book and I have no idea what Caleb looks like, tan and has dreadlocks is about it. Same with most of the other characters. Not to be shallow, but it helps to know what the characters look like, especially the love interest, I want to be swoon-y over Caleb too, but I can't imagine him in my head, so it's hard. Along the way to Caleb's campsite Eve finds out something else, she was never meant to go to the breeder building. She was being sent to the king for his own use. That's another thing about the world Eve lives in, it's a monarchy. After the plague there was a collapse in society and a strong leader took over, just til things calmed down and elections could be held, then he never left. Apparently he's now baby hungry and has decided that beautiful and smart eighteen year old Eve would be his perfect match (he's thirty years older than her and is described as cadaverous, so major ick factor here). So Eve is being tracked by the Kings soldiers and she ends up in more trouble at the campsite. Well, I don't want to give it all away, so I'll pretty much stop the spoilers here. At times Eve infuriated me, she acted so helpless and overwhelmed but then I'd remind myself that she'd been the perfect student, she never questioned, never rebelled, so even having doubts is a big step for her. Caleb was a bit irritating too, there was a 'big misunderstanding' and he ran off and then showed up just in time for a road trip, tres annoying. Her relationship with Caleb was a little too YA cliche. I would have liked to have seen more buildup, more actual friendship turning into romance, but it was a relatively short book and I hope that the follow up book will cover that a little better (there has to be a book 2 or else this has the lamest ending ever!!. Aside from the brisk pace, I know, that shouldn't be a downside, but I thought some parts were too rushed, the escapes, the day to day travel (everything seemed too cozy to be believable) and the ease with which the survivors lived on deer, berries and boar (are there wild boar around Lake Tahoe?) made me giggle a little in parts that weren't meant to be comical, I guess I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could.