Bottom line: A platonic same-sex love story--something I've never read before--marred by the odd, matter-of-fact writing style, which manages to make events that should be gripping dull and flat.
Trigger warnings: Botched abortion (in the past, not described), person who needs medication purposefully separated from their medication (a character keeps an epileptic woman from her meds, in order to "free" her from dependency on them), discussion of insanity (some characters are seen by parts of society as insane), murder of secondary character (not graphic), drug abuse, controlling parent (father; no physical abuse).
How does it treat women/same-sex relationships? Sexism is never explicitly addressed, but seems similar to present-day U.S.A. In the dystopian 2021 setting, only married couples are allowed birth control by the government and single mothers are (as in the present day) censured by society. The relationship between the two main women characters is the core of the story, with their platonic relationship honored as love, above one main character's sexual relationship with a man.
Does it have explicit sex scenes?: It has one semi-explicit m/f sex scene. It's very brief, and described in only a handful of matter-of-fact sentences.
Would I read it again? Possibly. It was unusual enough, I might.
Would I publish it? Yes, just because platonic love stories are rare. I would try very hard to work with the author to add emotional depth and complexity to the story, though.
This was a very unusual book, but, at the same time, a very dull read. I'm puzzled by it. It looks at the place of physical and mental health and disabilities in a dystopia--what happens when people no longer have access to the medications that let them control certain conditions? How does needing medication determine someone's loyalties? Are conventional definitions of sanity and health accurate? It also looks at platonic same-sex love, which I've never seen explicitly done. In the book, the main women characters realize, at the novel's conclusion, that their friendship, though it has no sexual component, is still love--and the one potential different-sex sexual romantic relationship collapses in the face of the cynicism of the male half of the couple, who is unable to elevate his emotional involvement to the level of love. The novel also does not condemn sex. It honestly seems to say that platonic love and sexual love can both be romantic and equivalent, with one not better than the other.
The book's worth reading just for that. However, reading it isn't much *fun.* The story should be exciting--there's arrest, time in a prison camp, breaking into a police department, betrayal... Instead, it's dull and unconvincing. The characters float through each hardship without ever seeming truly in danger or inconvenienced. The novel's style describes everything as though the events were unremarkable and everyday. The prison camp seems remarkably pleasant, punishments for disobedience of the government remarkably mild and infrequent, the few deaths remarkably--unremarkable. It all seems easy. The emotional connections of the characters and their development are described, but not felt. I never once felt emotionally involved or emotionally convinced by the characters or the plot.
A very odd book.