Jemma 7729 takes place in a future North America wrecked and rebuilt after a ruinous civil war in which there were many women both as leaders and soldiers on the losing side. After the Necessary Genocide (yes, they call it that in the book), the population lives in vast domed cities, each surrounded by a doughnut of farmland and connected to the others by high speed rail. The vast interior of the country, the Countryside, has been abandoned and is falsely alleged by the government to be full of toxic and radioactive waste.
The female sex as a whole is blamed for this, and women are kept under tight control and given a very narrow list of occupational choices. They also have to make their choice at age ten. Women who prove difficult are “altered” by drugs to make them docile and content with their lot. Jemma refuses to choose at age ten, and is imprisoned in “rehab.” She escapes both rehab and the Santa Monica dome, living on the run. Using stolen Internet access, she figures out how to make primitive bombs and destroys several of the plants where the mind-altering drug is manufactured.
Her real career begins when she is taken in by the Movers, a large and well-organized resistance who mentor her in guerrilla warfare skills and help her understand the big picture. The “Administrative Government of North America” (AGNA) has to be overthrown. The whole system must change, not just “altering.” However, their main tactic of undermining the regime is to get people to leave the domes, where they are under tight control, and live in the Countryside instead.
Meanwhile, the state-run media demonizes Jemma, making her out to be a dangerous criminal and terrorist. Her parents, still under the dome, disown her.
I would rate this book five stars, except it loses a star for having Jemma successfully fire bomb about a dozen altering-drug-making plants while she’s still 11-12 years old, and unassisted. Maybe one, through a combination of lax security and underestimating her because she’s a child (albeit a precocious one), but ten-eleven-twelve (I don’t recall how many) is stretching it.
The last chapter is a heartbreaker but leaves plenty of hope the rebellion will continue. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope it gets much wider distribution. In the aftermath of the success of The Hunger Games, there’s a growing market for dystopian sci-fi with young female protagonists.
Length: about 70-80,000 words.