Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: The Only Boy - Jordan Locke

The Only Boy
Jordan Locke
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: A
On Goodreads

I received this book for the exchange of an honest review.

I was pretty excited for this book for several reasons, especially just glancing at the reviews on Goodreads and the rating, which I usually don't do, but I wanted to check it out. 

And I was struck by the premise, a dystopian novel where there are no boys? Wait! Could this mean that finally someone in this genre chose to appropriate material on gender and sex association? Did they write about that? Is that even possible? Short answer, I was a bit naive, and foolish, and Locke doesn't spend a terrible amount of time on the topic.

But The Only Boy reasserted itself quite nicely. What I love about Locke's writing is that it is utterly straightforward and so easy to read, which neatly fits in with fluid narrative construction. She begins with a sober description from Mary's eyes:
"I picture the city streets filled with people . . . I imagine both women and men, girls and boys, even though I’ve never actually seen a boy." (1)
What is so crucial here that is often missed by Sci Fi/Dystopian authors is need for an instant connection. Rather than an infodump on how the alternate world is, one needs a vantage point and pathway into this world. Locke definitely allows us this connection and I stayed curious with Mary's observations and feelings (and Taylor's) right up to the end of the book. It was just good friggin narrative. Streamlined, punctual, flexible. Wonderful for implementing tension between characters and concepts and suspension between plot points. AND THERE IS A HELL OF A LOT OF SUSPENSION GOING ON HERE, PEOPLE. (Of course there is the Lauren Oliver style of 600 pages of poetry, but that's good in its own respect).

If I do have one gripe (and I've noticed this among other reviewers so I'm not crazy), it's that though this narrative is good, it is sometimes hard to figure out who is narrating. Taylor, in the beginning, has very similar concerns to Mary and sometimes I'd have to turn back a few pages to figure out who was supposed to be narrating. It's not major, and it only happened a few times, but I would have liked to see more variety in narration.

There are striking themes throughout the book, which caught my attention and kept me hanging on as much as the suspension. Not-a-spoiler-alert, chapter 46 opens with a back and forth with Taylor and Wren, where after Taylor notes the gender equality before the cleansing, and how Wren could have been "anything [she] wanted", she still chooses to say "Nah. Let him go out and work. I'd rather stay home." (Locke, 182-3)

The characters, however, are pretty fantastic. Most of the secondary characters, like Wren, provide a backdrop for the story. Rather than being important themselves, they are machinations of the dystopia and represent something or other thematically, like Wren with the gender association. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since this is a very focused noveTaylor's anxiety about his position in the Matriarchy and whether to stay with Mary or run is quite impressively connective. I really felt horribly sorry for someone stuck in such a situation. 

Mary can be a bit quiet, but her curiosity wins me over. She is, even from the onset, always imagining things the way they might have been or will or could be and it's quite inventive, yet realistic, for a girl stuck in such a restricted place.

The ending was absolutely out of this world. Short, and so, so bittersweet. Warning, this book will leave you forever with questions. G-DAMNIT "STAY WITH ME" UGH. SUCH. YES. UGH. I'm trying to remain professional.

There are just so many positives to note it would take forever, and I think I've bored and worn down anyone at this point into either hating me or loving this book. So go! Read it! 

- Marlon

So . . . if you were the last guy on earth . . . (had to say it.) Anyway, would the world be better without men? Or women (perhaps a less viable option)? Do any of you even believe in gender associations?
Let us know in the comments!

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