Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches– moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything–the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.
Women are rare in Riley’s world. Only men or “benders” are born nowadays, so women are often kidnapped and sold to the Breeders in order to keep the human population afloat. A life with the Breeders consists of birthing children for the rest of their fertile years.
No one outside of their family can know that Riley or her mother exists. If anyone else knew, they would be kidnapped and sold to the Breeders. When Riley’s family is exposed and attacked, and her mother goes missing, it’s up to Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, to track her down. The only problem is that she can’t just go out looking for her mother as a girl because she’s being hunted, too.
I’ll put it right up front that I struggled to even finish this book. First of all, the plot was all over the place. This was a quick read, but I feel like Katie French tried to fit way too much into this novel. Good guys were suddenly bad guys were suddenly good guys again without any transition whatsoever, and it left me frustrated and confused.
The biggest issue I had with this book was that just couldn’t dig the characters. Everything is told from Riley’s perspective, and sweet baby Jesus is she the oddest combination of country stupid and somehow-knows-everything-about the pre-disaster world. At the beginning of the novel, she’s pretending to be a boy, then she’s pretending to be a hermaphrodite, then everyone knows she’s a girl. I feel like that must be at least a little confusing–how would she even know how to act toward a boy?–but she doesn’t miss a beat. I found it frustrating that she even fell into a relationship with Clay so quickly.
Clay thinks Riley is a hermaphrodite, then finds out she’s a girl, and then when she comes back, he’s not interested in her. Then without skipping a beat, suddenly he likes her. He seems to struggle with being a flip-flopper in his relationships because he’s the same way with the Sheriff–he loves daddy but hates his politics, then he’s going to run away, then he hates his dad, then he’s back with his dad, then he kills his dad. It all moved really fast and without giving the plot time to develop. Overall, I found Clay was just really shallow and acted on surface-level emotions. He even became attached to Ethan because Ethan looked like his little brother. Awkward.
Ethan and Riley’s mom were both boring. Ethan is the eight-year-old kid who thinks he’s super tough, but never really does anything except get in the way and whine about how no one tells him anything because he’s eight. Riley’s mom gets herself kidnapped because she’s in the book to fill that role, and everyone has to save her.
The Sheriff and the Warden are your typical bad guys who just wants to be bad for no reason. Why? Because they’re bad (EVIL FLAKES). Oh teh noes! Give it some depth, please.
The writing was so choppy I might as well have been reading a script. Not to mention any “adult references” were incredibly awkwardly phrased; they read like a twelve-year-old’s porn fantasy. “I’m going to take out what you did to my face on your body.” Seriously? Who says that? This book also would have been better off with a good copy editor. I picked up on several typos and homonym errors throughout the book, which really grated my nerves, and I wasn’t even looking for them.
One slight redeeming quality was that Riley’s aunt was hilarious. I would have liked to see her more throughout the book.
After that review, it’s probably not surprising that I’m only giving The Breeders only one star. I won’t be continuing with The Breeders series, and it would take a pretty strong recommendation to get me to read another Katie French novel.