cover image The XY

The XY

Virginia Bergin. Fire, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-6217-4

This near-future novel from Bergin (H2O) is set in southwest Britain, 60 years after a virus killed most of Earth’s biologically born men. Women run the world, and boys and men now spend their lives in sterilized Sanctuaries, valued only for their reproductive contributions. Teenage River has never even seen an “XY” until she stumbles across a sick, fearful boy lying in the road and saves him in accordance with the Global Agreements, which require citizens to help one another. According to River’s Mumma, their region’s National Council representative, protocol dictates that Mason receive no treatment other than painkillers. But the village’s remaining granmummas, who lost loved ones to the pandemic, are determined to save him. The mystery behind Mason’s provenance and apparent immunity power the plot, while the potential ramifications of his survival create tension. Bergin uses a clever premise and vividly sketched characters to illustrate the importance of compassion and inclusion, but stereotypically gendered world building (video games and organized sports don’t exist without men), together with reductivist reflections on the social construction of gender, lessen the story’s impact. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)