In post-apocalyptic North America, rape and sexual slavery are legal. Lila Velez, desperately wants to lose her virginity before the troops visit her town and can take it away by force. She makes plans to seduce her only friend, Rey, the most attractive man in her town. Lila does not love him but he is the only man who has shown her true affection, an affection she is willing to take as a substitute of love.
Lila’s coping mechanism to her mother’s rape and kidnapping is her secret. A secret that will bring her closer to Aleksey, a foreign, broody man. Lila does not trust him because his links to the troops and his rough, yet irresistible appearance. Aleksey offers Lila an alternative to her plans, a possibility that terrifies her…and tempts her in spite of herself.
All the while Lila will have to find a way to live in the constant company of death, slavery, starvation, sexual abuse and the danger of losing the people she loves the most.
Though I felt the premise of this book had potential, it was more erotica than action at all.
There was so much backstory that was never explained. I honestly had trouble remembering if the Patriots or the Nationalists were the good guys, and it was really hard for me to even comprehend what the war was over.
The emphasis on virginity was ridiculous and made no sense as it was never explained why the recruiters might want virgins over non-virgins if they were just going to promptly take their virginities. The emphasis on virginity overall I found to be very infuriating as I see virginity as a complete social construct. To me, the talk about walking differently after losing one's virginity is just completely imaginary.
I was really disappointed with Lila. Maybe I'm too used to unrealistic heroes of dystopian novels, but let me reassure you, this book isn't at all about fixing the political problems. Lila is concerned with herself, herself, herself, and occasionally her family. There was a vague group talking about revolution, but they had no plans, goals, or ambitions.
I felt like the entire topic of rape and sexual slavery could have been much better handled. The author obviously tried to make a statement, but it ended up feeling like the foreground and there were some scenes, including the attempted rate of an 11-year-old, that I felt like should have had much more space. The emotional impact and degradation that I know occurs in real life was not explored at all, and in this, I feel like an injustice was served.
I often found it hard to follow the plot, because Lila was perpetually dreaming things very vividly that didn't happen and didn't really contribute to the plot, a trope I found really annoying and kind of a cop out for wanting to include a scene that wouldn't be realistic. There were a lot of small details, too--for instance, one of the first scenes involves Lila bathing in a river and worrying about soldiers coming, but she never appears to bathe again throughout the rest of the book.
Aleksey's appearance was all too coincidental, and I really disliked how he was the male sent to save Lila and her family like a knight in shining armour. It didn't seem like Lila was too unintelligent; couldn't she have figured something out? He worked for her benefit, but he didn't seem to care at all about her community and the world they were inhibiting.
And there was just too much sex. This was marketed in the Teens & YA category, but the blurb recommended that only 18+ readers read it. Still, I thought that the themes would be tough, not the content--this should definitely be new adult if not adult completely. This almost could have passed as erotica, and quite frankly, I avoid erotica as much as possible. A few scenes I could have handled, but when I was practically having to skip over a scene every two chapters, I got frustrated.
A book dealing with the trauma of rape and sexual slavery would be very pertinent to today's society; however, this felt too much like a teenager's erotica to be worth reading for me.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.