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Book Details

The Boy I Am The Boy I Am
K. L. Kettle

Publisher: Stripes Publishing
ISBN: 9781788951227
Published: 01/07/2021
Price: £7.99

Book of the Week

They say we're dangerous. But we're not that different. Jude is running out of time. Once a year, lucky young men in the House of Boys are auctioned to the female elite. But if Jude fails to be selected before he turns seventeen, a future deep underground in the mines awaits. Yet ever since the death of his best friend at the hands of the all-powerful Chancellor, Jude has been desperate to escape the path set out for him. Finding himself entangled in a plot to assassinate the Chancellor, he finally has a chance to avenge his friend and win his freedom. But at what price? A speculative YA thriller, tackling themes of traditional gender roles and power dynamics, for fans of Malorie Blackman, Louise O'Neill and THE POWER. "Brutal, uncompromising and edge-of-your-seat action all the way through" - Alex Bell, author of FROZEN CHARLOTTE "The best kind of up-all-night dystopian YA, thought-provoking, different and above all, an extraordinarily exciting story, whose main character, Jude, will stay with me for a very long time" Lucy Coats "It's a gutsy, intelligent, tension-building tale. A bit Handmaid's Tale, a bit Mad Max, and a creature all its own." Sinead O'Hart, author of THE EYE OF THE NORTH "Mind blowingly good. Love it. It's going to get readers thinking." Dr Vanessa Harbour "A dark, thought-provoking dystopian that is gorgeously written too" Amy McCaw, author of MINA AND THE UNDEAD "It's so gripping and tense and thought-provoking" Ben Oliver, author of THE LOOP

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A brilliant YA debut from Kathryn Kettle kicks off the new year with a powerful, speculative novel. Jude, the protagonist, is a teen trapped in a world where women hold all the power and his future, along with his 'brothers', depends on a successful auction.

However, Jude is entangled in a plot to change both the gender and power balance in his world. In an increasingly tense read, the author builds up both an intriguing plot and compassion for the main character. It is a gripping and detailed narrative so required my full concentration as the story unfolded. This was not difficult as 'The Boy I Am' is a page turner.

The addition of the author's letter explaining her motivation to write this story and her feminist views were fascinating. I will be including it in the book when I add it to the school library stock to enrich the reader's understanding of what inspires a writer to write.

This book would be a recommended read for upper school students who enjoy science fiction, fantasy and dystopian fiction, offering a thought-provoking story where gender stereotypes are challenged. It would be particularly useful as an example of gender politics and issues of equality in power-based societies.

384 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Ruth Cornish, school librarian
Ruth Cornish

If you are looking for a book that will grip you, look no further. The Boy I Am is pulling no punches. The traditional gender roles have been reversed and Jude is running out of time to impress at the auction of boys to the female elite. If he is not chosen this time around then he can expect a life down the mines. He has trained hard for this. Undergone cosmetic surgery for this. This is his way up. This way he can put things right and get 'justice' for his friend Vik.

This is dystopian fiction where men have been enslaved by the women who control them. They are kept underground and put to work to pay off their family debts. They are unable to vote or hold any position of power within society. Instead, men are objectified by women and they concern themselves with their physical appearances to impress and gain the attention of a suitor at auction. If they are not bid for, then a life of hard manual labour awaits them. If they fall foul of the law, the punishments are harsh. If they touch a woman without permission then they could lose their hand, or if they speak without permission, their tongue... Women on the other hand can seemingly act how they please.

Jude has lost his best friend Vik at the hands of the Chancellor; the Chancellor who has been corrupted by power and exacts the harshest punishments without trial. Jude has been trained by Walker who has recruited him to assassinate her and to exact this revenge the Chancellor must choose him. He accepts his life will be over either way.

Powerfully written with a main character that you will root for, The Boy I Am will make you think about society and equality. It is a thought-provoking read. Jude is treated appallingly and there were points when I was reading this on the edge of my seat. The Boy I Am is certainly a book for the older teen and will appeal to fans of Malorie Blackman and Lisa O'Neill.

384 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian
Clair Bossons

This is a mind blowing, gripping book about underage boys being sold to the female elite at an auction. Jude (main character) is a 16-year-old boy out to seek revenge for his best friend, Vik. To do this he needs to be selected at the auction, which only female elite women attend. However, it is not as easy as it sounds: he only has one chance of doing this as he is in his final year before he is deemed untrainable for the auction that only occurs once a year. This would mean a lot to any other boy, as it would save them from working in the mines, but not Jude. Jude has been trained on how to grab the attention of the Chancellor - not for a better life, but to get revenge for his best friend who was murdered by the Chancellor!

This is a mind-blowing story that traps the reader in right from the start. It shows the abuse men and boys get from the elite women. This book shows the other side to reality almost, as we normally read and hear about women who have been treated as property by elite males. This book turned this around by presenting it from a male perspective.

I highly recommend this as a read for 2021 for anyone who likes to read fiction and young adult thrillers.

From the perspective of a boy called Jude, The Boy I Am is set in a world were women rule and the boys are auctioned off to the female elite. But if Jude fails to be selected before he turns seventeen, a future deep underground in the mines awaits.

Yet ever since the death of his best friend at the hands of the all-powerful Chancellor, Jude has been desperate to escape the path set out for him. Finding himself entangled in a plot to assassinate the Chancellor, he finally has a chance to avenge his friend and win his freedom. But at what price?

This speculative YA fiction is one that tackles the theme of traditional gender roles, similar to the dystopian regime of A Handmaid's Tale, yet contains its own unique rollercoaster of emotions. It was a book I could not put down; following the chaotic life of Jude was fascinating, learning about his past through his memories. Exploring the themes of friendship, restriction, corruption and love, all entwined to create a puzzling and effective book. It provided an interesting perspective of a matriarchy that was intricately imagined, with the layers of female power and the corruption within the society.

I would definitely rate this book 5/5 because of its relevance with pressing topics such as LGTBQ+ and feminism which, through the creation of this dystopian society, can inspire YA's to explore and understand these controversial issues

In a post-apocalyptic future, a self-sufficient community survives inside the High House - a skyscraper in what is now desert, which protects its residents from the searing heat, choking fogs, and gangs of roaming Hysterics, found Outside. The society of High House is a meritocracy, whose complex rules see merits awarded for good behaviour, kindness and hard work. Thus, only the truly deserving can rise to positions of power.

But the boys of the High House bear the sins of their fathers; since men caused the Last War, the unimaginable debt of merits incurred by this worst of behaviour is inherited by each new generation of males. And so boys are subjugated and kept under tight control to ensure gentlemanly behaviour. They may not look at a woman's face. They may not speak to a woman unless spoken to. Once a year, the most promising are auctioned off to female bidders, to become their ward. Those not bid for are destined for a punishing career in the mines.

Jude, up for auction, has been thoroughly coached to attract a bid from the Chancellor, the most powerful woman in the High House. But, even in a meritocracy, power corrupts, and the Chancellor is not as meretricious as her position would suggest. When he witnesses a terrible crime, Jude questions who he can now trust: Mr Walker, his coach and mentor; rebellious Romali Vor, daughter of a leading family; or the voice in his head of Vik, Jude's best friend, missing since last year's auction? Terrified and isolated, nothing has prepared Jude for the far-reaching consequences of the Chancellor's bid.

The reversal of 'traditional' gender roles is initially the most striking aspect of this book. The boys are to be seen but not heard, they are weak and at the mercy of their hormones and instincts. The superiority of women is taken for granted. It jars the reader's expectations and preconceptions - a bit like reading Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses for the first time.

The Boy I Am is a dark and fascinating psychological thriller which asks if women would make a better job of things if theirs was the dominant gender. It will no doubt generate a lot of discussion about gender roles, feminism, slavery and #MeToo.

384 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Kimberley Lawson, school librarian
Kimberley Lawson

The residents of the House of Boys are preparing themselves for the annual auction - the lucky ones will be bought as wards by the female elite; the unlucky ones will find themselves working in the mines (it could almost exist in the same world as Liz Hyder's excellent Bearmouth!).

Jude Grant is the latest in a line of boys to bear his name, as well as the debt that comes with it - a debt of original sin inherited by all boys for crimes committed before the Revolution. Jude is preparing for the auction in a different way - at the previous year's auction, the Chancellor appeared to kill his best friend Vik. This is Jude's one chance to get close enough to the Chancellor to enact revenge.

In this tense race against time, where can Jude turn, and who can he trust?

The Boy I Am is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society with flipped gender roles and a tense, exciting plot that reads like a YA version of The Power meets The Handmaid's Tale. The story is (sometimes unreliably) narrated by Jude - often as a conversation with the absent Vik. The depictions of micro- and macro-aggressions of sexual assault and power imbalances in this role-reversed world serve to highlight the fact that our own society is still a long way from equality, and it does so in a much more subtle way than I expected when I first heard the book's premise.

This is definitely one that could be used with our Y9 students as part of their lessons on dystopian fiction, but be aware that the book does contain descriptions of body shaming, plastic surgery, eating disorders, sexual assault and murder.

I can see this having a broad appeal: a tense dystopian revenge thriller with a male protagonist in a matriarchal world - there's something for everyone!

384 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Dan Katz, school librarian
Dan Katz

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