Ever taken the term Gender War literally? In a dystopian futuristic world where men and women live separately, Eroyn Fairchild struggles to take care of her Elder and to fit in. Then, a man breaks into the female part of the compound. The Separation is a young adult novel promoted as something between The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, and the first of a trilogy. This story will thrill you and leave you wanting for more.
It’s almost a century since men and women started living apart. Eroyn Fairchild is taking the best of care of her Elder; Grace. At the age of 102, Grace is one of the few women who has lived alongside of men and knows about the war. Or could know about it, if she didn’t suffer from Dementia – an illness that can be remedied if one has the money for the treatment. The reader is introduced to these characters at the passing of Carolyn, Grace’s best friend. During the ceremony, Grace refers to a man in her speech. It’s a mistake that gets Eroyn chastised. With a threat from the Council, Eroyn needs to either find a way to pay for Grace’s treatments, or accept that the Council pays the treatments for her and that she will lose everything she’s entitled to. To hear that all she’s been working for and has grown used to will be taken from her – including Grace – Eroyn boldly claims she will find a way to pay for the medical treatments herself. Her job in security at the border of the compound might not earn her enough to pay for the medical care Grace needs, but perhaps she’s found another opportunity when a man manages to break into the female part of the compound.
Promoted as a Dystopian Future tale, the opening scene to The Separation is refreshing and kind. The relationship between Grace and Eroyn is endearing and will have the reader smitten from the start. Our female protagonist takes care of the lady of 102 years of age. It’s an unlikely start to any dystopian story and original as well as surprising. The friendship and love between the two is heartwarming, as Eroyn will do anything in her power to help the old lady who is more like a mother to her than her own mother ever was. Family ties are described throughout the tale and a leading motive for the actions taken by our protagonist Eroyn. Eroyn’s mother, for instance, is one of the main catalysts for Eroyn to do – or not to do- certain things. In her quest for recognition she wants to make her mother proud, and her mother’s reactions propel her to undertake her next actions.
Nothing in this story could take place without the help of Eroyn’s best friend Luna. Another heartwarming friendship that gives the reader a nice warm tingling feeling in the tummy. Because friendships bring the warmth in this book, in this world that is in shatters.
One of the things that influences Eroyn is the attitude of the inhabitants of the female compound and the things she’s been taught. Although she is a female she has more of a boyish appearance to her. She tries to make amends for this by growing her hair long, for instance, but she feels she’s being judged for her not feminine enough looks. In Compound A, also called Genesis, women grow up to become Elders. And Elders choose Youths who then care for them. Once the Elder passes away the Youth inherits everything from her Elder. That is the structure of the society Eroyn grows up in. Boys are brought to the male part of the compound, and people are supposed to fit in the prescribed roles for them. It is nice that Stormy addresses some of the consequences of people ‘not fitting in’, referring to sexual abuse as well as being looked down upon. But although the issues can be severe, the tone with which they are referred to, or sometimes hinted at, is as expected from a young adult tale – not too graphic but not sweet-talking or denying it either. But if males are in one part and the females in the other, it does raise the question where the trans people are. Perhaps in another compound?
While friendships and other relationships bring warmth to the story, the world created gives a different vibe. It’s a world from after a huge war. The description of the compounds give an almost claustrophobic feel, enhanced by the way Eroyn is taught by her teachers and the way Grace is hushed about the past. As a reader, you’ll get the sense soon enough that there’s something terribly wrong in the world Stormy has created. Are there more compounds? And how many? How come there are still weapons made and shipped? Have the women truly won the war? Or did the men win? Or are they being played? What else have they been lying about and what is the truth? Although much of the story takes place in houses within the compound, a homely setting, there’s also a short journey outside of the compound. As a reader you feel the difference; you feel the dangers of the outside world compared to the relative safety of the compound. And you’re left with new questions.
There are several heavy themes addressed in this novel, one of which is the disease Grace is suffering from. Among the dark atmosphere of a world, almost claustrophobic compared to ours, the theme of hope is one that prevails. There are medical remedies, much more advanced than what we have now, and there is hope for Grace and hope for Eryon. But there are also topics breached and tiny bits of knowledge dropped throughout the tale that (unintentionally?) bring us hope and leave us wondering. If there is an invention to bring back a younger version of a person, could it be used for Grace? Will she be united with the man she loved?
The Next Compound?
This is a proper fantasy, young adult story. The teenage heroine has hardships to conquer, but there’s a sense of hope throughout the tale that is characteristic for the genre of young adult tales. There’s a bit of sci fi, a bit of technology, a bit of good looking men and a lot of friendships and trust. But there’s also betrayal, jealousy and, in the end, warfare. If you like what you’ve read so far, then keep in mind that this is a stand alone story. The ending will not leave you satisfied. If you start, you’d better continue by reading the next two parts. It is not another Hunger Games, but it is another journey for survival. It is not another Divergent, but it does focus nicely on social structures in a post-apocalyptic setting and what happens when someone doesn’t fit in. It is a story with a dark tone, with a heroine who tries her best for the people she loves, who is helped by friends and who is on a journey of discovery. If you’d like to explore that same world along with her, then pick up the book, either paperback or digitally, and accompany Eryon as she stumbles from one discovery to another and tries to find the truth about the history of humankind and the society she lives in.