Sunday, November 28, 2010

NoMansLand by Lesley Hauge

Genre: YA, dystopia 
Page Count: 256 (Hardcover) 
Released: June 2010 by Henry Holt and Co. 
Recommended For: Dystopia Fans, fans of The Hunger Games

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  
Sometime in the future, a lonely, windswept island is populated solely by women. Among these women is a group of teenaged Trackers—expert equestrians and archers—whose job is to protect their shores from the enemy. The enemy, they’ve been told, is men. When these girls come upon a partially buried home from the distant past, they are fascinated by the strange objects—high-heeled shoes, teen magazines, make-up—found there. What are they to make of these mysterious things? And what does it mean for their strict society where friendship is forbidden and rules must be obeyed—at all costs? 

My Thoughts: 
I think I expected to like NoMansLand. It has an intriguing premise, a gorgeous cover which I love, and, of course, it's a poster-child for new dystopia. (God, I'm going to have to rename this blog 'A Myriad of Dystopian Books' if this keeps up!)  

Our protagonist is Keller, a teenage girl training to become a Tracker-- one of a group of Amazon-like warrior women who defend their island-bound colony of women living apart from the rest of the broken and devastated world.  Keller's a smart girl with a lot of promise (this book feels like it must be the first of a series) and she also isn't afraid to think for herself, despite the extremely controlling atmosphere of the island society where she lives.  These girls and women are taught to work hard in their selected positions and defend the island from invaders-- namely men, who are demonized by their leaders.  But they aren't allowed to have relationships with the other women, friendly or romantic.  Beauty and vanity have no place in this society and those women who speak out or break the laws-- even via such a simple act as painting their fingernails-- are severely punished.  Along into Keller's life comes Laing, a beautiful girl and fellow Tracker-to-be who has discovered an old, half-buried home from the world Before.  In this house, several of the girls uncover ancient artifacts from a world they've never known, a world where women were too often judged by their appearances and seen as second-class citizens.  Our world. 

The backstory behind the world of NoMansLand is mysterious and shadowy-- we never really find out exactly how this island of women came to be, or how this mysterious council of leaders operates.  Luckily, the author is writing a prequel, according to her website.  But as of now, I felt there were too many questions left unanswered.  This book appears to be more of a light-hearted read, judging from the synopsis... 'girls who find teen magazines and beauty products..' and the fact that it's a thin book, easily read in a day.  But there is a turning point when the story moves quickly from engrossing and light, to darker and heavier events which border on disturbing. Overall, I definitely enjoyed NoMansLand, but I'm not giving it five stars for several reasons.  The writing was clear, and Keller's voice likable, but the depth of the characters was nothing outstanding.  Laing was the only character who really stood out from the masses-- I read this book weeks ago, and she's the only girl besides Keller whose name I remember.  

One of the neatest things about the island colony are the women's names-- it is forbidden to add the suffixes 'y' or 'ie' or 'a' to the end of names, so the names end up sounding androgynous.  So in the book, 'Kelly' became 'Keller' and 'Laini' becomes 'Laing'.  My own name's not one which can be transformed using this system, but I had a fun time running through the names of girls I know and picking new names for them.  :) 

Overall Rating: 4/5


Jenny said...

This one is new to me and I'm a huge fan of dystopian novels so I'll definitely give it a try. That's funny that you mention there's only one character's name you can remember, that's exactly how I judge books sometimes as well - whether or not I actually remember the characters. Despite their lack of depth, this does sound like an interesting book, I really enjoyed reading your review!

Alison said...

I'm not a huge dystopia fan, but this does sound interesting. Especially weird about the suffixes. I'd be interested in why the society has issues with that.

Kat said...

@ Jenny-- Thanks! I really did enjoy this one, and I tried to remind myself that it is the author's debut novel.

@ Alison-- I think I (sorta) understand about the name suffixes. 'ie' and 'y' are diminutives of masculine names (ie Alex becomes Lexi), so in a society where women live alone and despise men, they wouldn't want to have such a constant reminder that their names are variants from mens' names, so they sort of create new names altogether to make them sound androgynous.
God, that was the world's longest 'comment', but you get the idea. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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