Katie French’s The Breeders is a YA dystopian novel set in a dusty, desperate world. Humanity brought itself to a fragile brink using synthetic fuel that eventually made female babies incredibly rare, as well as causing mutations. As such, any females are captured and taken to grand hospitals where they are used to help bolster the dwindling populace. As expected, unsavory experimentation follows in these footsteps.
Riley lives with her mother, Auntie, stepfather, and brother far outside of town. She has spent her life hidden from those that seek out girls to be sold — the Breeders. Her mother and Auntie tell warning tales of their own experiences with the Breeders, as well as their escape. One day, Riley’s stepfather heads into town and doesn’t come back. In the wake of her family’s uncertainty and grief, she takes the incredible risk of going into town to find him in an attempt to preserve the life her family has led. Things go downhill from there.
French’s novel is entertaining and has a good tempo. The plot isn’t completely original, but all the appropriate spots of suspense and resolution are there, leaving the reader satisfied. Not every situation turns out exactly as one might think, which helps keep your eyes moving across the page.
The main character, Riley, can be infuriating; however, she is a sixteen year old girl that lives in a pretty harsh world. French does a fantastic job of portraying her angst and devotion to her family. The book is not only a tale of survival, though. It involves love, a budding romance, and a study of the nature of the human spirit. What can we accept as normal? What can we not allow ourselves to do – or not do?
There are some scenes and insinuated situations that are rather grotesque, but also expected in a post-apocalyptic world. The realities of rape, torture-themed violence, and murder are all very present in the novel, though not described in any specific detail.
The novel poses an interesting idea about our use of fossil fuels. As an answer to the depleting fossil fuels on Earth, humanity comes up with a synthetic that is cheap and widely used. The chemicals of this synthetic build up in the bodies of people and cause extreme consequence. It isn’t so hard to imagine that our reality could find a similar solution and embrace it just as openly, only to cause our own downfall.
In all, it was a pretty interesting book, if not the most original. It took a well-used situation and put a fairly unique spin on it. The ambiance of the book is well-done and it is engaging, despite a quick ending.