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By day K. L. is a global business person, girl boss and general nerd wrangler; by night she writes novels, short stories and flash fiction. She has been long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2017 and shortlisted by SCBWI as a 2018 Undiscovered Voice for THE BOY I AM. Made in Birmingham, K. L. now lives near London.
Fuelled by feminism, this formidable speculative thriller tackles traditional gender roles and the dynamics of power head on. In fact, it flips the status quo on its head to create an absolute page-turner that’s both gripping and inventive, with shades of an alternate The Handmaid’s Tale running through its pounding heart. Jude Grant lives in a post-war matriarchal society in which women hold all the power as a result of men messing-up the world (“Your lot – you men – you destroyed it all”). As a boy, he was born into a life of servitude, raised in the company of Nurse Fathers in the Surrogacy. Now nearing his seventeenth birthday, this is the final year he’s eligible to be presented at the Auction. His final chance to become the Ward of a wealthy Tower-residing woman, and the sense of time running out is potently palpable. In Jude’s world, gender roles are the reverse of those in ours. Here at the Auction, boys must smile nicely for the assembled all-powerful women who will determine their fates. Boys who have never seen a woman unmasked because “men can’t control themselves, we’re told; to look at a woman is to lose our innocence.” In Jude’s world, it’s boys who are subjected to objectification, sexual assault and abuses of power: “A grab here. A grope there. Small belittling moments we’re meant to endure, because it’s girls being girls. Shouldn’t we be grateful? Flattered? And when they don’t even know they did anything wrong, what? We’re meant to apologise?” If Jude’s not selected, he’ll be sent to the mines where most boys don’t survive a year. Waiting anxiously, he worries that he’s too old, too short, too fat. Sound familiar? This is powerful stuff, both in the context of Jude’s experiences, and its resonance with the treatment of girls and women in our world. But in Jude’s case there’s even more at stake, more reason to be picked to be the Chancellor’s Ward, for she killed his best friend Vik, and he’s set on revenge. What an impactful, provocative, pacey feat this is, from the author’s dexterous unveiling of the brutal world Jude and Vik were born into, to her accomplished translation of a powerful high concept into an edge-of-your-seat thriller.