I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this book the last week or so, even though I read it back in January. Though I guess I’ve mostly been thinking about the premise – teenage girls suddenly gain the power to hurt and even kill people with an electrical current from their hands. They can share the Power with older women, who can then wield it as well. That sounds particularly appealing with everything happening in the world right now. But I don’t like the Frame story (the male author writing this story, the advice of his female mentor) and how things ultimately turn out.
I liked the first part of the book – where we got to know the characters from whose points of view we hear the story (3 women and 1 man) and how the emerging Power impacts them individually and how it initially changes the world around them. It’s satisfying to hear how the women of India and Saudi Arabia rise up against their oppressors, how victims of sex-trafficking make examples of not only their captors, but everyone male who knew about their situations, how women take over towns and defeat armies. It does eventually become too contrived – with all the characters’ stories converging in Eastern Europe and the characters themselves less central and less interesting.
And then everything goes out of control – the women become drunk on their power, the training camps no longer for the purpose to learning to control the Power and use it to do only what you intend (whether to kill or maim or just a jolt to say back off), they become the rapists and the subjugaters. The male author in the frame story presents his tale as if it’s a history of our time, told 5000 years in the future, but their history, written as it is by the victors, by the Powerful, says it could never have been the way he says. Women are strong and men are weak and that’s always how it’s been.
Because of the ending in the frame, the whole thing proves less satisfying to me. I prefer a world where no one wields any violent power to subjugate, rape and be-little the other. I prefer kindness to prevail and I wish the women of this story would have used their new power to even the playing field, rather than dominate it.
Intersections: I am trying to be more Intersectional in the way I look at the world and my reading. For this book, I think of how transgender men and women would be impacted by this Power. How does the process of claiming their own gender identity change with this other element. How are disabled women impacted by this? When this Power first comes to be in the world, how does the privilege of whiteness give white women a different experience of the Power than it does to women of Color? (The only Women of Color presented here are the vast swaths of women in India and Saudi Arabia – none of the point-of-view characters is a WoC. Though the male pov character is Black.) Is the first woman to be tried for murder using this Power a white woman? I’m going to bet not. We can get away with much that WoC cannot.