Breeder by Honni Van Rijswijk is an interesting new dystopian novel. Will Meadows is a Breeder runner, but everything is about to change.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may not reflect the published edition.
Will Meadows is a seemingly average fifteen-year-old Westie, who lives and works in Zone F, the run-down outermost ring of the Corporation. In the future state of the Corp, a person’s value comes down to productivity: the right actions win units, the wrong ones lose them. If Will is unlucky and goes into Unit debt, there’s only one place to go: the Rator. But for Zone F Breeders, things are much worse–they’re born into debt and can only accrue units through reproduction.
Every day in Zone F is a struggle, especially for Will who is fighting against time for access to an illegal medical drug, Crystal 8.
Under the cover of night, Will travels to the Gray Zone, where life is less regulated and drugs–and people–are exchanged for gold. There, Will meets Rob, a corrupt member of the Corporation running a Breeder smuggling operation. Will also meets Alex, another teen whom he quickly recognizes as a Breeder in disguise.
Suddenly, Will has an illicit job and money, access to Crystal, and a real friend.
As the pair grows closer, Alex shares her secret: she is part of the Response, an uprising to overthrow the Corporation. Caught up in the new friendship, Will and Alex become careless as the two covertly travel into Zone B for a day of adventure. Nothing goes as planned and Will’s greatest fear is realized. Will his true identity be revealed?
“My name is Will. I’m a Westie. I live in Zone F. My corporation account is in credit.”
It’s hard to know where to start with this review, much less what to say without spoiling the book. My rating is a 2.5, which could teeter more towards 3 stars. First, Rijswijk’s writing is actually fantastic. They do a good job of world-building. You understand the rules without inherently feeling like it was dumped onto you all at once. However, there does tend to be more of a tell-don’t-show method of information sharing, which I disliked. Despite the very good writing, this book has minimal redeeming plot qualities.
“This is what I want. I want to be in the water with you. It’s October and the water’s late warmth presses against us. We’re on boards, facing the ocean. The ocean, the ocean. There’s a wave coming.”
If you’ve read my reviews before, then you know that character growth is extremely important to me. If a character does not improve, then was there truly a point to the book? This book approaches capitalism and its tendencies towards the dystopian interestingly. However, most dystopian stories have our protagonist interested in joining a rebellion. While they may be against it at first, this is usually the outcome. This is to show a level of character growth and change. Will consistently makes choices to save his own skin, and this doesn’t change even at the end. I wanted more for Will, and I wanted Will to do more for the society he lived in.
“Rich people are reanimating kangaroos, while thirteen-year-old girls have people’s babies in the Incubator. Isn’t that just beautiful?”
The content in this book is dark, and would most certainly be triggering for others. You never get a break from this content. There are, seemingly, never any joyful or happy moments in this book. It made it incredibly difficult to get through. I can see how we could mark this as a horror, as horrors often are this way. However, they usually give us some mindset of eventual hope. Breeder fails to do this, which made it difficult to get through without feeling disappointed.
“Every act of resistance matters. I don’t care if it takes generations…it starts with us.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.