In spite of the waning dystopian genre, Jordan Locke’s ‘The Only Boy’ breathes new life into it. I found this book on Twitter through this cover alone. Jordan Locke actually created this cover, and I must say, Locke did a fantastic job.
The main crux of this book is there are no more men in the world, as they have been wiped out by a plague called the Cleansing. Thus, it is only women that remain–or so Mary thinks.
Mary has never seen a boy in her life. She lives in Section One, which is a crumbling hospital with plenty of other women. Pictures of men have been removed from all books.
Then there is Taylor, whose dangerous secret is, of course, that he is a boy. In order to remain in Section One, he must pretend to be a girl; however, this is not an easy feat. The threat of death looms above him should he be found out.
Taylor wants to leave Section One because of the Matriarch. Her idea of safety is to keep Section One under totalitarian control. Even so, Taylor doesn’t want to leave Mary behind. But what will happen when Mary finds out just who and what Taylor is?
Upon seeing the cover and reading the description, I knew I had to snatch this book up right away. I love the dystopian genre, but the dystopian books in my bookstore are beginning to sound the same. They’re not even drawing from The Hunger Games. The most recent ones are being drawn from Divergent, because they all involve some sort of test, and it’s getting very tiring. In fact, Locke had to self-publish this novel because it couldn’t find a home due to the “waning dystopian genre.”
But this book manages to be its own dystopian.
There aren’t too many YA books with a male perspective. What’s even more interesting than a book with a male perspective is that Taylor, as for as he knows, is the only male alive and must live among nothing but women. I love how Locke doesn’t fall into the trap of believing that girls and boys are completely different from one another. This book shows they are not, and even Taylor himself learns that they are not.
So what is it like being the only boy among women? For one, he has to hide a razor blade in order to keep his face shaved. For another, he has to wear baggy clothes in order to hide his obviously-male figure. And last, he knows that if he were found out, he’d be killed because the plague killed men more quickly than women, and if there are/were any remaining men, they’d likely be carrying it. However, Locke instills an interesting secret within Taylor’s genetic code itself, and you’ll just have to read to find out what that is.
I love Taylor’s development. I love how he looks at the oppressive structure of the compound and realizes that women can be just as cold and violent as men. There is no touching allowed at this compound. Or affection. Or comfort. They avoid touching one another due to the plague, and affection and comfort are the same way. In fact, if a child is crying, the women leave that crying child alone. Thus, Locke presents a different side to women, one that isn’t so nurturing. In our culture, it’s a common-held belief that only women are capable of being nurturing. But this book shows that one’s environment determines one’s true behavior. In an environment based on pure survival, women will do what they need to do to survive.
I can’t forget about Mary, either. Her perspective is interesting because she has lived in Section One all her life under the oppressive rule of The Matriarch. She is a curious girl and wants to know what life was like before the Cleansing, but the Matriarch will allow no such knowledge. In fact, The Matriarch has made it so that men are unneeded. The women in Section One don’t need men to reproduce, not when all babies are basically genetically modified. So…GMO babies!
And so Mary is constantly getting into trouble, being put in the pit, sometimes with another, sometimes by herself. One can be in the pit for days or weeks at a time. Oftentimes those in the pits survive on water alone. This conveys just how dictatorial The Matriarch can be.
Even more interesting are The Earthers, people who are looked down upon by those who live in The Compound. In fact, Mary is convinced The Earthers killed her mother…with a gun. However, The Earthers have no such technology, so draw your own conclusions from there.
The Earthers live off the land alone, but I can’t give away too much about these people. All I can say is that the world building is fantastic because Locke delves well into Mary and Taylor’s perspectives. Doing so allows Locke to delve into the many layers of the characters’ worlds, and the characters themselves. Locke also does a fantastic job of making readers sympathize with secondary characters, such as The Matriarch’s daughter, who happens to be the bully of the compound. When I learned that The Matriarch showed no affection to her daughter, even as an infant, I really began to empathize.
Overall, I give this book a perfect 5.
Buy the book.
Visit Jordan Locke’s website.