Book Review: The Gender Game (2016)

** This is a rough cut of my review of¬†The Gender Game. Normally, I only post finished work, but I’m going out of town today and I wanted to get this review out before the weekend. Please excuse any typos I may have missed ūüôā

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When I found¬†The Gender Game in¬†Kindle’s book selection, I got pretty excited. I was perusing the large ebook collection looking for a trashy fiction novel to distract me from a rough couple of days. I searched through the Fantasy genre tab, downloading several book samples about which I was lukewarm. When I came across the author’s name, Bella Forrest, my first thought was, “Wow,¬†Twilight must have really resonated with this author.” I scrolled through the summary and realized the story sounded really¬†interesting. 99 cents didn’t seem like a huge price to pay for the novel, so I downloaded it and dived right in…

…and I stayed in, reading during all of my available free time over the next 5 or 6 days.

The Gist

Violet Bates lives a the female-dominated state called Matrus. Across a nearby toxic river, Matrus’ counterpart, Patrus, operates in the exact opposite fashion. After authorities determine her little brother, Timothy, is too headstrong to be a contributing member of Matrus society, Violet attempts to smuggle him across the river by rowboat so he can live free under the cover of Patrus society. Unfortunately, the Wardens, which are futuristic versions of law enforcement, stumble upon the scene before Tim can escape to the other side of the river.

Following the incident, Violet spends the next several years of her life in the Matrus prison system, forced to do hard manual labor while living side-by-side with other female convicts. Her involvement in more than one fatal jailhouse brawl elicits the pointed attention of high-ranking Matrus officials. Violet is¬†approached by Matrus royalty and asked to undertake a dangerous covert mission into Patrus in exchange for her freedom… and a visit with her little brother, who she presumes is working in the Matrus coal mines.

As she attempts to successfully complete the mission while trying to blend in with the stifling, male-dominated society of Patrus, she begins to understand the world in broader terms. The story takes us deep into the intricate (and delicate) infrastructure of the male and female dominated societies and illustrates the hardships endured by each sex.

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When a story grabs me, everything else in the world seems to fall away. The Gender Game kept me guessing at every turn. The plot and the core symbolism is so authentic, and Forrest has taken the time to make her characters distantly relatable and exciting to root for.

Violet, our explosive heroine, had a jaded ruggedness to her personality in the beginning. I loved it. I really felt for the character in those first few chapters. However, later in the book, she morphs emotionally into more of a childlike protagonist. Her behavior, dialogue, and reactions show an immaturity¬†that I failed to notice in the beginning. Honestly, she seems a little boy crazy for being a virtual captive while her freedom hinges on the death of her Mother Land’s¬†enemies.

This made her character considerably less likable for me. Instead of progressing towards a stronger conviction and countenance as someone with life experience naturally¬†would, she regresses into a very sensitive¬†lose cannon. I suppose she’s been explosive all along, but in the beginning, she was fierce. In the end, she shed part of the hardness that made her so appealing.

The male characters were done very well. I developed a fully-formed mental picture of each of the major players- 4 in total. Violet’s love interest, the dark and brooding Viggo, is a mixed martial arts fighter who’s serving out a prison sentence by dealing justice to the regular population as an investigator. He’s slightly cliche; he’s a widower who is tormented by the lack¬†of morality in what he has to do to survive. Their relationship is also a little far-fetched. I definitely loved the way the story evolved between the pair, but the events that initiation their attraction are unlikely.

Final Thoughts

A fast-paced, easy-to-read story is exactly what you want on hot summer days. The¬†Gender Game‘s length is hearty enough that you don’t feel like you fly through the story too fast, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s perfect for a cruise or a relaxing beach vacation.

Readers of Suzanne Collins’¬†The Hunger Games¬†and Veronica Roth’s¬†Divergent¬†series will feel very comfortable in the gender-segregated¬†worlds of Matrus and Patrus. Vilot experiences profound changes in her perspective, and even though the character is 19, there is still a strong element of ‘coming of age’ baked into this tale. Vilot comes to realize that men have real virtues (who knew?) and her priorities in the story shift accordingly.

I highly recommend¬†The Gender Game for anyone looking for a casual read with some depth. It is the first installment of a seven book series, so if you enjoy it, you will have plenty of follow up stories to keep you entertained. And, if you’re on a budget, the Kindle version of this book is available for $0.99!

Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars

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Thanks for Reading! What are your thoughts on The Gender Game? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed your visit to MTB Fresh!

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