Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In this compulsive and suspenseful debut, Amanda, Caitlin, Janey, and -Vanessa have grown up on the island. They are daughters and members of a religious cult established by ten original male ancestors who had left the "wastelands" for their island paradise. Scripture defines strict gender roles for the community, which are enforced by the Wanderers-the only members who have contact and regular dealings with the outside world. The girls are desperate to learn more about the wastelands, as their lives, apart from the carefree summers when they are allowed to run wild, are a series of painful and traumatizing experiences. None of them wants to become a woman, or a Mother, and no female wants her daughters to experience what they have been subjected to. When one of the girls is murdered for wanting to leave, the others form a resistance. Their vulnerability and powerlessness in the face of their oppression and abuse is heartbreaking. VERDICT This beautifully and carefully constructed work pulls no punches in its depiction of a bleak future; it will attract fans of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and readers who enjoy horror, suspense, and dystopian fiction.-Karin Thogersen, Huntley Area P.L., IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Melamed's haunting and powerful debut blazes a fresh path in the tradition of classic dystopian works. In her searing portrayal of a utopian society gone wrong, four girls share their stories of life on a sheltered island where they are ostensibly safe from the war- and disease-torn wastelands that their ancestors had escaped generations earlier. The darker truths behind their heavily patriarchal society-in which girls must submit first to their fathers, then to their husbands-emerge over the course of a year marked by a devastating plague and a quietly assembled rebellion. Led by 17-year-old Janey Solomon, who is holding her body's development at bay to retain any lingering shreds of adolescent freedom, the island's daughters begin to ask forbidden questions: Why do so many women mysteriously bleed out in childbirth after defying the island's traditions? Is there habitable land beyond their shores? Can any of them choose to stray from their assigned fate? It's a chilling tale of an insular culture grounded in "the art of closing off the world to those who seek it." Melamed's prose is taut and precise. Her nuanced characters and honest examination of the crueler sides of human nature establish her as a formidable author in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* In Melamed's quietly horrifying debut, 10 men and their families left the wastelands behind to start a new society on a coastal island. Succeeding generations worship these ancestors and follow their rules, which revolve around gender roles and child-rearing. Children are taught nothing of the wastelands except that the world is burning after an apocalypse and only the chosen Wanderers are allowed to venture back, usually to bring supplies and, once every generation or so, a new family. Women are subservient, children run wild outside for entire summers, and when daughters reach menarche, they spend their summer breeding with the unmarried males of the island. Once autumn comes, they are married off and follow adult rules: two children per family, obey the man of the house, and drink a final draught once your children bear their own children. But society starts to fray when four daughters of the newest breeding generation become rebellious, wanting to know more about the wastelands and desiring more freedom for themselves and other girls. Melamed's gorgeous writing lets the details of this fundamentalist society drip out slowly. Readers will find dread washing over them as the story unfolds, and will be left catching their breath when the full backstory dawns on them. This one belongs on every dystopia reading list.--Vnuk, Rebecca Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A band of young girls grows to undermine the world they were born into.Vanessa, Amanda, Caitlin, and Janey live on an island, at an indefinite distance from the U.S. mainland. It's not clear what year it is or when, exactly, the island was colonized. The girls and their families are all descended from 10 "ancestors" who founded the island society. The only ones to leave the island are the "wanderers," who travel to the mainlandthe "wastelands"to bring back supplies. In this world, women and girls live tightly proscribed lives. Children run riot during the summers, but, once they reach puberty, girls undergo a summer of "fruition" before they are married and begin breeding. In her debut novel, Melamed, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, has written a terrifying work of speculative fiction. The customs and rules of her island become clear only gradually, so the truth of that world seems to blossom, horribly, in the reader's mind. In their own way, the girls begin to resist their society. To put off puberty, Janey starves herself. Vanessa, whose father is a wanderer, devours the books he brings back from his travels. Further details would require spoilers. Suffice it to say the apparently placid surface of their world begins to roil. Melamed is a masterful writer, and she establishes a hauntingly vivid atmosphere. While it may be difficult at first to differentiate among her many characters, by the end they each become clear. This is a haunting work in the spirit of The Handmaid's Talebut Melamed more than holds her own. Hopefully her debut is a harbinger of more to come. Fearsome, vivid, and raw: Melamed's work describes a world of indoctrination and revolt. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.