Monday, October 25, 2021

Book Review: The XY by Virginia Bergin

Title: The XY
Author: Virginia Bergin
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 352
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Sixty years ago, a virus wiped out almost all men on Earth. Now women run the world, and men are kept in repopulation facilties, safe from the deadly virus. At least, that's what everyone has been led to believe…until River discovers a young man on a country road—injured but alive. Mason has been outside for five days since escaping from his facility, and no one can understand how he has survived. Hiding the boy violates the rules of their world, but as the women of the town band together to try to save him, River begins to suspect that the truth behind Mason's existence is darker than she could have imagined. 

Unfortunately, I was very underwhelmed by this book. I don’t give low ratings often, but this was a 2.5 star read for me.

This book is about River, a teenage girl growing up in a world completely run by women. Two generations before River, there was a virus that, for some reason, was a threat to the male population but not to the female population. For some reason, the virus killed males but it laid dormant in females. Since males are needed to continue the population, all boys and men were sent to secure and sterilized facilities, called sanctuaries, where they could live free of the virus. When a male is born, he is immediately taken from his mother and taken to the nearest sanctuary. She doesn’t even get to hold him. Most of those who remember the “once-was”, as River calls it, are hoping for the day when males can reenter society. Those who came after the once-was, like River and her mother, grew up being taught that men were nothing but bad. This book and their lessons were full of blatant misandry which could have been forgiven had there been redeeming qualities towards the conclusion of the story. In my opinion, there weren’t.


This is a quote from the book, one that is repeated throughout at least the first half of it. Males were taught to fear females and vice versa. The boys in sanctuaries were brought up believing that all women were she-wolves and she-devils who only wanted to rape and kill them. Considering they were brought up in enclosed areas where their usefulness to society was fully dependent on the sperm they produced, I cannot blame them for feeling that way. However, the girls in the outside world were also brought up to believe that men were evil.

When River runs into a sick XY in the woods, she loads him up in a cart and takes him home because according to the rules of their society, you must help everyone. Her grandmother, Kate, is the only one in the house equipped to deal with an XY because she was from the once-was. She was the only one throughout this book that consistently treated mason like a human being.

Males were completely dehumanized for most of this book. For about the first 60% to 75% of the book, both River and her mother must keep being reminded by Kate that Mason, the XY, is a HE, not an IT. Even though River had many conversations with Mason, she was still struggling to see him as the human being he was. While reading this book, it felt as if feminism was being defined by misandry and that is not what feminism is or should be. When misogynists argue against feminism, this is a book they could use to make their case.

Also, it’s mentioned in the book that some women became lesbians because there were no men around instead of because they were naturally attracted to women which was also just extremely offensive.

River’s world is also defined as having no war or violence as if women are always sunshine and daisies and as if we can’t commit atrocious acts of violence as well.

I had SUCH high hopes for this book and the potential it had. I thought it would be similar to The Gender Game by Bella Forrest where females ran their own country and males ran their own except neither sex would be allowed in the others’ country. I had so many questions going into this book. How did men and women survive without each other? Would it be easier to be bisexual or gay in a world where you’re surrounded by your own sex? In a world where There are no females around males and vice versa, how would transgender and nonbinary people feel; would they find it hard to fit in?

It isn’t until the very last sentence of the book when River fully realizes that Mason isn’t an “it” and that he isn’t just a boy, but that he’s a person. I don’t say this often but I actually regret purchasing this book and supporting such misandry and discriminative drivel. I’m the first to laugh at a good “men ain’t shit” joke, but I also know that there are some REALLY good men in the world; too good for this book to have been published. I have another Bergin book on my shelf, H2O, and I’m not sure now if I’ll be able to bring myself to read it.