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Book Cover Image: Y by Bonnie Rozanski

Title: Y

Author: Bonnie Rozanski

Synopsis (Courtesy of Amazon): “The year is 2011, the place, New York City. A mysterious microbe has begun to infect women of child-bearing age. Though the medical establishment writes it off as a simple flu, and the epidemic appears to be dying out, a young New York obstetrician confronts a conundrum. In the past year, the ratio of boys to girls born in her practice has declined precipitously. Dr. Deborah Kruger suspects the truth: that infected women are no longer able to give birth to male children.

With the help of her husband Larry, a computer analyst, Deborah tracks the epicenter to New York City, from which the infection is already bursting forth. And, as years pass, despite hundreds of laboratories at work on it, the microbe continues to overrun borders and envelop the Earth. With Science unable to stop it, and the contagion rippling worldwide in an AIDS-like pandemic, how will society cope in an increasingly female world?

Unquestionably, some changes are inevitable. Companies hire more women; who assume more leadership positions, replacing the male hierarchy with their own female style of management, to great success. Among the younger generation, monogamy is increasingly replaced by polygamy. Wars decrease. Crime falls. Football attendance is down. Ballet is up.

Y follows three New York City families for an entire generation, each with its own story. The blue-collar husband proves unable to deal with a wife who has become the major bread-winner. The yuppie husband does well in his career but cannot resist the temptations of a workplace with limitless young women. His wife, turned off from men entirely, will leave him and become a force to reckon with in her own right. And, along the way, the children of all three families struggle to find mates and to secure their own places in this new, topsy-turvy world.

At once a fast-paced thriller of a gripping race for a cure, a speculative tale about a futuristic society, and a comic battle between the sexes, Y is, above all, the story of real people caught up in a society they no longer recognize.”

Thoughts: Y is one of those novels that has a great premise but suffers through its execution. Unlike similar novels that are redeemed through the writing or its character development, Y has none of those. It is unfortunate because the plot is interesting, and Ms. Rozanski’s writing shows promise.

The problem centers around the fact that Y never settles into one particular genre and one particular main topic. It tries too hard to be a dystopian, political, sociological, feminist, morality tale cum science fiction. This leaves the reader questioning the main purpose behind the story. What is Ms. Rozanski’s ultimate point she is trying to make? Is it that women can run the world just as well as men? Is it that the more things change, the more things stay the same? Without being able to grasp this main detail, the entire novel remains a jumble of ideas and of characters. The plot bounces from one serious discussion to another without affording the reader the opportunity to dwell on the topics and come to his or her own conclusions.

Speaking of characters, there are so many characters that character development is severely lacking. The reader never gets to understand more than the very superficial level of reasoning behind a character’s actions. As a result, the reader has no vested interest in any of the characters, leaving the reader an impassive witness to their actions and behaviors. This lack of an emotional connection drives one’s reactions to the rest of the novel and removes the urgency, despair, and horror behind the events.

I have to address the “gender differences” that make up the novel. They are seriously some of the most stereotypically offensive lines I have ever read. I am not certain if this was Ms. Rozanski’s point, that she was trying to highlight these so-called physiological and psychological differences as legitimate or as bogus, but I struggled reading a novel that pontificated about the idea that men are more spatial and more logical, while women are ingrained to nurture and support. That being feminine means being emotional and irrational, while being masculine means seeking power through any means necessary. That men and women run businesses very differently, and a women’s way will fail in the long run. That there is a man’s world and a woman’s world and that when forced to reverse roles, nature will find a way to restore the balance back to that natural state as quickly as possible. Even if these ideas were meant to be tongue-in-cheek, there is an earnestness throughout the novel that gives weight to the message, making the stereotypes almost impossible to ignore.

Y has such potential that I remain disappointed I could not like it. Who hasn’t dreamed up a world where women break through the glass ceiling and take a greater part in society? Isn’t that why we continue to fight for equal rights? Yet, I truly did not like this novel. It was predictable and trite, never stopping to seriously address such moral issues as cloning, and, to me, offensive. There is a chance I completely missed the point. Perhaps I was so hung up on the gender differences that I missed what Ms. Rozanski was trying to say. This is a distinct possibility and one that has been whirling around in my brain since I started reading the novel. Unfortunately, based on my interpretation of the novel, Y remains a huge disappointment.

Have you read Y? What are your thoughts? Am I off the mark? Did I miss something? Let’s discuss!

Thank you to Ms. Rozanski for my review copy.

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