Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins. Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman. Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write. For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…
I’m not sure I have ever read a book that was so startlingly different in the first half to the second. The first 50% of this book had me gripped – uncomfortable and angry, but in a good way. Dubbed as a re-imagining of The Handmaid’s Tale, Vox is set in a dystopian society where the Christian church have combined forces with the corrupt government to form the ‘Pure Movement’. Here, women are limited to just 100 words a day, forced to wear a word counter around their wrist that will deliver fatal electric shocks to those who go over their daily quota. Dalcher’s premise epitomises the Victorian saying “Women should be seen and not heard,” and it is this notion that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Other dystopian rules apply: homosexuality and adultery will see you thrown into prison camps; all forms of literature have been locked away; birth control has been banned and women are no longer allowed to work, with the male population left to pick up the slack.
My sympathy has already expired. Let them work twelve-hour days. Let them bury themselves in paperwork and administrative nonsense and then limp home only to sleep like the dead and get up and do it all over again. What did they expect?
The protagonist’s son, Steven, has enrolled on an AP religion class where students are being brainwashed in to supporting the new regime. A page from the textbook quotes, “Woman has no call to the ballot-box, but she has a sphere of her own, of amazing responsibility and importance. She is the divinely appointed guardian of the home.” The ramifications of this one sentence alone are terrifying! Cautionary tales, such as Vox, are usually dystopic in tone by hinting at a nightmare future, but here we are reading unquestionable nightmares from our past. There are many chilling moments of realisation that sexism and misogyny are still prevalent in today’s society and, unfortunately, probably always will be.
A really great premise that could have made for a brilliant read. Unfortunately for me, the latter half felt like I was reading a completely different book. It turned into a science-based thriller with too much medical jargon and too many unnecessary subplots. This is not a contemporary YA – I do not need an unexplained ‘insta’ love story thank you very much. Christina Dalcher would have done better to use some of her own word count to explain how society reverted back to misogynism in the first place. Did it drip in day by day? How did women react? What happened to those who refused to follow order? What the second half of this story needed was a strong female character who fought back against the corrupt government to instill change. Instead, we got a weak confused woman who ultimately needed a man to come and save her. Message lost!
Other books I now want to add to my TBR