[Content Note: Rape, Reproductive Coercion]
by Anna Carey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Eve / 9780062048509
I picked up "Eve" from Amazon Vine because it was sold to me as a cross between "The Handmaid's Tale" (which I love) and "The Hunger Games" (which I also love). That was, as we will see, a dirty lie designed by marketers with black holes where their souls should be. And now I'm stuck having to write a review for a book that I flung to the ground in disgust at about the halfway point. However! I am nothing if not interested in helping potential buyers decide whether or not to spend their hard-earned money on a book, so here is my Very Useful Summary of the first third or so -- if you like this, PRESS THAT BUY BUTTON NOW.
EVE: It's the evening before graduation, where I will present the valedictorian speech because I am the smartest girl in the entire world! Which is not terribly hard because 98% of the population was wiped out by a plague, but still. Also, I have no personality whatsoever besides being naive, obedient, and utterly unsuited for a dystopian environment, and am therefore intended to be a generic blank for the reader to sink into.
ARDEN: Hi! I'm the social outcast of the school and everyone rightfully mistrusts me because I lie and cheat and bully people! I have a personality, though, so you'll wish I was your protagonist instead of Meaningful-Name-Eve over there. I'm going to flee the walled school because graduates aren't sent to college; they're strapped to beds and forced to churn out babies in startlingly unsafe conditions considering how valuable they are as baby makers.
EVE: I don't believe you because that makes no sense: why would they teach us waltz and Russian literature if that were true? (NOTE: This really does make NO SENSE.) But despite the fact that you are an established liar, I'm going to break out of the dormitory, nearly break my foot, nearly drown, and get my hands torn to shreds on thorns JUST TO BE SURE. ... Oh, crap, she's right. Welp, nothing for it but to escape -- I'll go get my best friend.
TEACHER: Halt! Oh, Eve, I see you've decided to escape. I'll help you, but there's no time to get your best friend.
EVE: OK, if you say so.
TEACHER: I do. Oh, but go into the crowded dormitory and pack everything you own including the last letter your mother wrote for you before she died. Wouldn't want to leave that behind.
EVE: Of course not. I have priorities. And I'll try not to trip over my sleeping best friend while I pack. [later] Wow, it's really hard to find food and water when I've only ever been trained in waltz and Russian literature. Oh! Arden! Can I come along with you, despite the fact that my presence will hinder you and possibly get us both killed?
ARDEN: Sure, but I'll glower at you while the reader again wishes that I were the point-of-view character instead of you who are so impractical you refuse to use blankets if they've had a dead person touching them.
EVE: While you hunt food for me, I'll just wander off into this Walmart. Oh! A baby bear! Baby bears are dangerous; I know that much. But it looks like Winnie the Pooh. (NOTE: I am not making this up.) I'll just pet him for a bit. Oh! Look at the plot twist that is so obvious a dead man would have foreseen it: an angry bear mother. Whatever will I do?
CALEB: Hi. I'm a literal savior riding a literal horse. Sadly, though, I am not the Old Spice guy.
EVE: Er, how do you feed and shoe and nurture a horse in a dystopia?
CALEB: Look, just get on so we can escape the bear.
EVE: 'K. Don't rape me, though.
CALEB: I'm not interested.
EVE: WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT INTERESTED. "The plague had killed far more females than males. As one of the few women in The New America, especially an educated, civilized woman, I'd always supposed I was every man's type. [...] I was intelligent, I worked hard. I was told I was beautiful. I was Eve, the valedictorian of School." (NOTE: That is a direct quote in the context of Eve being offended at being told by Caleb that she's "not [his] type" immediately after she's been indoctrinated her whole life -- and been worried for the entirety of the book -- that all men are degenerate rapists.)
...and that was when I threw the book at the wall, because if Eve thinks that rape is a compliment, then she's officially too stupid to live. (Also, I'm pretty sure the book maintains this rape-is-a-compliment theme, since -- if I gather correctly -- the King of America will decide that Eve will be his own personal baby-maker, come heels or high water. BECAUSE SHE IS JUST THAT SPECIAL. Obviously.)
The one good thing I can say about "Eve" is that it demonstrates how not to write a YA dystopia. Eve has no discernible personality underneath her whiny naivete, and it occurs to me that one of the reasons why I love Katniss Everdeen so much is because she's a distinct person -- she's not a blank for me to sink into, but an actual character worth following in her own right. And in "The Handmaid's Tale" -- which "Eve" wants to be so much it hurts -- Offred's gaps in her personality was part of the point; society was doing its best to strip her self away and that was a tragedy, not something for an author to aspire to.
While I don't demand walls of text to explain world-building in my dystopias, I do require the setting to at least make sense. The hand-wave for why a tremendous amount of resources are sunk into the girls' education is quite ridiculous; the Latin and Russian lessons were supposed to keep them occupied so they wouldn't become suspicious (and would make them erudite protagonists, obviously). The fact that a HUGE number of years and resources are invested into these girls only to then keep them in unhygienic conditions that I *guarantee* would have them dead in a few years flat cannot be chalked up to the Bad Guys being evil and stupid; the system literally should have collapsed on itself before we even get to Eve.
And if it had, we all would have been spared a lot of bother.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine, and which I am required to review as a participant of the program.
~ Ana Mardoll