I was really intrigued to read this and it had a lot of promise but ultimately there was a bit too much waffle from the MC and not enough exploration of some key gender concepts.
I've read reviews where people have found this quite a man-hatey, rad-fem book. I can see why, I guess. The author has set up a world where men have disappeared and subsequently so did all the crime and greed.
But this is a bit of a post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc (I know! Latin! And so early in the morning) argument and I don't think it was what the author meant. Just because the Utopian society came about after the men were wiped out, doesn't mean it came about *because* the men were wiped out. I think the author was actually trying to say that it was a global cataclysm that lead to a society where there was no crime or greed.
And yes, a lot of the characters do speak about men in disparaging terms, but the only characters who do this are the ones who have never known men. And I guess if you've never known men, you might hear about all the awful things that happened pre-apocalypse and think that men were the root of all evil. When River meets Mason, she refers to him as 'it', which is pretty awful, yes, but don't forget she's grown up in a world that has no male pronouns, no boys or men. For River, meeting Mason is like aliens descending to Earth.
And Mason? He's misogynistic, thinks women are weaker than men, that they should dress like bikini babes. He's grown up in a battery farm where violent video games are the only source of entertainment, where boys and men are kept in militaristic cells and violence is the norm. We're all a product of our upbringing and Mason is definitely a product of his.
So why only three stars (and I'm being generous with three stars)? I guess it's because this actually wasn't a great book. The characters were a bit limp and I never really got a feel for who they were. The main character, River, was annoying and childish and spoke in random all-caps to get her stroppy point across. I was quite surprised she was considered mature enough to have a vote on the collective council, to be honest. None of the characters really grew or changed and I found them a bit meh.
Also, the author never mentions what happens to trans women in the male sanctuaries (in fact, we don't learn a lot about the male sanctuaries at all, other than that they're violent places). Are there trans women? I think in a book that sets out to explore the concept of gender, it was a mistake to leave this out. Trans men are mentioned in a kind of oblique way, and actually it would have been better if this could have been explored a bit more.
There was a kind-of romance, but I was never really sure if it was romance or just friendship and it seemed really tepid.
The plot went well for the first half of the book and I could see lots of different directions it could have gone in, but the second half of the book just fizzled out and the ending was more of a whimper than a bang.
So yeah, it was okay and it had a lot of potential but it could have been a lot better and would probably have worked better as a dual-narrative book.