It’s been a while since I recommended a book. Not because I haven’t been reading (oh, far from that), or because I couldn’t find anything to recommend (please read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. Please. You will love it.) I just haven’t gotten around to writing a post, until today. I offer you The Breeders, by Katie French.
The Breeders is a YA dystopian read that’s as gritty and dark as the cover and title suggest. It takes a look at how society might devolve if females were commodities: bought, sold, stolen, and traded to keep the dwindling human race going. Frightening concept. I loved it. You might recognize Katie French’s name from her review of The Scourge and an interview she did with me a few weeks ago. Turns out she’s an Indie author as well as a book blogger. She didn’t ask me to read or review her book, and I certainly won’t make it a habit to recommend every book by an author that liked mine. I bought The Breeders because I was drawn in by the cover and the promise of an exciting tale set in the American West, an unusual choice for YA speculative fiction novels. I wasn’t disappointed.
Protagonist Riley is an impetuous sixteen-year-old girl hiding out with her family in one rusty, dusty farmhouse after another. They’re avoiding the Breeders, a mysterious group hell-bent on rounding up the last of the girls and women of childbearing years to play with like chemistry sets. They’d snatch Riley and her mother in a New Mexican minute . . . if they knew they existed. Riley’s lost any hope of falling in love, or having a life of her own. She’s focused on survival. And survival becomes difficult indeed when her stepfather doesn’t come home after a trip to trade for needed supplies. Determined to find him, Riley walks into a town full of smelly, dirty men who would just love to sell her to the Breeders for a princely sum, or use her for their own purposes. Sound like fun? Read it. It gets even better.
The Breeders is action-packed, and genre-bending. Cowboys and banditos have shootouts in saloons and ghost towns, but elements of modern medicine and technology like Tasers and ATVs indicate the story is set sometime in the near future. Being YA, there’s also a sweet romance, but it takes a back seat to the action. I liked Riley a lot. She’s a real girl with real faults who makes plenty of mistakes while still remaining sympathetic. But my favorite character is Riley’s Auntie, who may be too old to pack heat, but sure can sling a good insult (“You stinking, rotten pig eater! . . . You loathsome, dirty hair pie! I spit in your mother’s grave!”) Hair pie? Love it. The villains remind me of the bad guys in the films Cool Hand Luke and O Brother Where Art Thou? While there are some line editing problems (spelling issues, missing words, misuse of homophones), the writing overall is very good. The dialogue is especially good, IMO.
At the gun-powdery heart of The Breeders there’s a fundamental tension. The women and girls left in this dark world both love and rely on the men in their lives. But break the somewhat tenuous ties of their emotional bonds, and those same men can easily become the enemy. And if there are no ties at all . . . watch out. It’s a tension that exists for many women in our world, too, which makes Riley’s story both familiar and uncomfortable.
My advice? Pour yourself a shot of cheap whiskey, settle into your bar stool, and grab The Breeders. For $2.99 you’ll have yourself a darn good read.
Find Katie at www.katiefrenchbooks.com