Outcasts, book two of The Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson, creeps me out for all the wrong reasons. The writing is strong and the character development excellent, but there’s a thread of borderline-abusive paternalism running through the book that really bothers me.
The basic premise of Outcasts is that in a dystopian future, humans either rock out in the Safelands addicted to drugs and slowly dying of disease, or else are part of a counter-culture movement living off the grid in sewers and underground bunkers.
The heroes of the story all chose to resist and are organized in a close-knit, male dominated hierarchy. Older brothers are in charge. (Male) elders have a say in whom a young girl marries. When an orphanage gets raided, the mothers stay at home and pray while the men go collect children they don’t even recognize. When young women do step out on their own, they risk getting kidnapped or raped.
The heroes are also given a religious veneer. Sine they read the Bible, it makes it appear that the author is totally okay with a legalistic, umbrella of authority model like Bill Gothard promoted before he stepped down from IBLT after 34 women came forward with sexual harassment claims.
There are lots of types of Christians in the world and not all of us believe the Bible sanctions male relatives to be our boss!
However, I was encouraged on Jill Williamson’s website to see how important it is to her to write high quality material for teen readers. Since this is book 2 of a 3 part series, I’m holding out hope that there will be a breakthrough moment in the concluding book where the young women step out from the umbrella and stop letting older brothers control their lives. Maybe the author has a master plan that will blow my mind.
P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.