The Gender Game
By Bella Forrest
Summary: A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates’s world by gender.
Women rule the East. Men rule the West.
Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus…
Ever since the death of her mother, Violet’s life has been shadowed by bad luck. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now after two unfortunate incidents resulting in womanslaughter, she has been sentenced to death.
But one decision could save her life.
One decision to enter the kingdom of Patrus, where men rule and women submit.
Everything about the patriarchy defies Violet’s identity, but she must sacrifice many things if she wishes to survive the forbidden kingdom… including forbidden love.
Source: I received a digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Bella Forrest is the author of the Shade of Vampire series that is a major Kindle bestselling series. I’ve been fortunate enough to read a lot of those books and obtain some of ARCs as new books released until I just couldn’t keep up with the series. It’s a great series, but I was glad to get a request to read something outside of the Shade of Vampire world for a chance. The Gender Game is the author’s venture into YA dystopian.
Let me start by saying that I don’t like the title. I think the title combined with the synopsis comes across like the author is only acknowledging two genders, which alienates a lot of people, especially in the YA age group who are experiencing something else and are being exposed and introduced to the concept of non-binary people. Regardless of how anyone feels about the issue, that’s not really what the book is about overall, so it’s a misleading title that turns people off when those same people would probably enjoy the conflict and premise of the world.
The book explores the differences between a matriarchal society and a patriarchal society. Each society created rigid rules based on what they deem important. We all know that people don’t always fit neatly into categories and it’s obvious that some people are not cut out for either one of the societies and wish for something better. Violence was frowned upon and had steep consequences in Matrus and the punishment was much harsher for men. In Patrus, women couldn’t be alone or speak up or really do anything. Men in Matrus were limited to hard labor and prohibited from learning. In Patrus, women were limited to domestic duties and prohibited from learning.
Violet found herself in a juvenile facility for violence. While she was allowed to train in basic defense, she was limited in her training and she was prone to lashing out. However, she found herself chosen for an important task on behalf of the Queen of Matrus and was sent to Patrus as a spy. She would marry another Matrus spy, Lee, and the two of them would carry out the task and smuggle the item back into Matrus. If she succeeded, she would be able to see her brother who was sentenced to the mines of Matrus.
I liked the book and I enjoyed the plot. I felt like both societies were stifling in different ways. It was generally believed that women flourished in Matrus and men flourished in Patrus, but Violet experienced something else. She didn’t flourish in either society because of her violent tendencies. After watching a cage fight, she realized if she could just be allowed to fight, perhaps she could blow off some steam and be a regular citizen, but fighting wasn’t an option in either society.
I think the title may throw some people off, but the book was really interesting and it was a fun YA dystopian novel that kept me guessing. I recommend it if you’re looking for something short, different, and fun.