Review: Gather The Daughters by Jennie Melamed


Title: Gather the Daughters
Author: Jennie Melamed
Publisher: Little, Brown
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
Hardcover, 340 Pages
Published July 2017

Summary: Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires. The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others. Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

I received an advanced copy of Gather the Daughters in exchange for an honest review from the publisher (although it came out a few days ago now), and I'm really glad that I did. I first found out about this book on Twitter through another blogger, and the entire premise of the story just seemed so fascinating to me. I mean, think about it -- a mysterious island where the children (specifically, the daughters) get to roam free in the summertime? The premise reminded me so much of The Wild Girls, which was one of my favorite books as a younger child, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.

What I quickly learned was that this book was nothing like The Wild Girls at all. It contained a darker, more sinister undertone, and had several plot twists that left me confused, stunned, and sometimes even a little horrified. 

So the story explains what life is like in a little island town, which seems to be post-apocalyptic (or at least, that's what the villagers are told). This book reminded me a lot of The Scarlet Letter in the sense that there was a super close-knit community in a secluded area that all loved (and also judged) each other fiercely. There was a strict order to how things went, with girls who reached puberty being thrust into their "summer of fruition," in which they became sexual objects to be used by eligible men until they chose who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with. They'd marry, have two children, and eventually die. And every summer, all of the children on the island got to roam free and have complete and utter lawlessness as a way to keep them tame during the rest of the year. And beneath the surface of this seemingly strict but harmless life...there were a lot of dark secrets and terrible, terrible things happening.

I found it kind of difficult to get into this book at first, and I even considered DNFing it for awhile. There is a lot of world-building that has to happen before you can truly understand the story, and everything felt dry and creepy and uninteresting while the scene was put into place (for a good 25% of the book -- or at least that's how it felt, might I add). But once the stage was set and things started to get interesting, I found myself hooked. So if you're reading this book and you find yourself struggling through the beginning, I advise you to keep pushing through, because you will break past all of the dry, seemingly boring introductory stuff and get into the interesting, thrilling, horrifying story soon enough.

(Minor spoilers in this paragraph so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read this book already!) I remember the exact moment that I figured out exactly what it was that the fathers did with their daughters. It was a mix of utter horror and disbelief. At first, I thought it was an isolated abuse incident, but as the story went on, it was clear that this was a common occurrence, and even something that was supposed to happen. And was so sick. I was appalled. I could hardly believe it as I was reading, and I was totally shocked. 

The end of the book also came as a shock to me. I wasn't entirely sure where I saw the book ending, but I know that it definitely wasn't there. I was left with so many unanswered questions and wish I knew what happened once the final scene was over. But, despite not knowing (and really, really wanting to know), I can say that I'm satisfied with how the book panned out. It was certainly a roller coaster of close calls and emotions, and Melamed keeps your interest piqued until the final page.

Overall, I enjoyed Gather The Daughters. I went through a brief period where it felt too much like an Adult book to me (as opposed to being a YA book), and I thought I was maybe going to have to DNF it because I wasn't sure if it was the right book for me. But once the drama really started to pick up and things got complex and interesting, I was hooked. 

If you're looking for a new thrilling, chilling read that will totally go in directions that you don't expect, Gather The Daughters is the book for you. I liked it and I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to review this one! 

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