I am trying to decide which genre this falls under. Not really YA as it has some really explicit sexual, violent and abusive content. Not quite adult yet as ultimately the story is about a teenage girl coming of age and finding true love through some traumatic events.
The story is set in an apocalyptic America where civil war has split the country into parts where it either belongs to Nationalists or Patriots. In this world the governments have developed drugs that can genetically change humans to be stronger and much more aggressive. And the controlling and winning Patriots have used it on their soldiers. Our heroine and her families live in a “state” where it is controlled by Patriots and by law when someone reaches 18 years old, they will be “recruited” by the army to serve the soldiers. In this world, “recruitment” means mass rape. The story is mainly set in the weeks before the recruitment ceremony and our heroine Lila’s attempt to do anything she can to escape this and save her family. During her attempts, she encounters the hero of the story Aleksey, an ex-soldier who is now working for UNNO, an organisation equivalent to our UN nowadays, to try to create order in this apocalyptic world.
I am very intrigued by the synopsis of the story and it is completely out of my comfort zone to read anything that has anything to do with rape. I always avoid reading this subject matter but I think this is so relevant right now given what is happening around the world. So I gave it a go. Gritty, disgust, heart-breaking can’t even begin to describe how this made me feel. It makes me think what is happening around the world in war zones and it devastates me that it is still happening. It reminds me that I am very lucky to live in an environment where I have the rights to say no to anything that I do not want to do. It really devastates me to think what is occurring in the book may and has happened to someone out there.
The book is raw and gritty. It does not romanticise any of the evil activities in the book, which I find refreshing. More often than not when we read a book with a similar storyline as this they tend to romanticise the events. And I am grateful that this book calls it out and make the audience feel and more impotently think and reflect on what we call value, love and rights that belong to a human being.
Synopsis: In post-apocalyptic North America, sexual slavery is legal. Lila Velez desperately wants to lose her virginity before the troops visit her town and take it away by force. She makes plans to seduce her only friend. Lila does not love him, but he is the only man who has shown her true affection, an affection she is willing to take as a substitute for love. Lila’s coping mechanism to cope with her mother’s loss is her secret. A secret that will bring her closer to Aleksey Fürst, a foreign, broody man who she distrusts because of his links to the troops and his rough, yet irresistible appearance. He offers Lila an alternative to her plans, a possibility that terrifies her…and tempts her in spite of herself. With threats looming at every turn and no way to escape, Lila fears that falling in love will only lead to more heartache. The consequences of laying down her arms for Aleksey and welcoming hope might destroy more than her heart. They might force her to face the worst of her nightmares becoming a reality. Is love possible in a world that has forgotten what the human touch is?