Posted in Reviews

Review: The XY by Virginia Bergin

The XY by Virginia Bergin

Recommended: eh
for an okay story with WAY too much FONT STYLING!!!, for some nice lines about philosophical things, for some entry level critical gender conversations


Sixty years ago, a virus wiped out almost all men on Earth. Now women run the world, and men are kept in repopulation facilities, 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.


Alright look. The story is meh at best and weakly done. BUT: the title begins with an X, and is not erotica. If that’s not why you’re looking at this book then good for you! You’re probably an eager minority. If you ARE looking at this book for the purposes of an x-title-related reading challenge, then yeah it’ll do.

This book wasn’t terrible, but it did feel like something an advanced student would write (and in fact truly does remind me of one student’s entry for NaNoWriMo in 2016). There is soooooo much text styling on the page and it feels aggressive and tiring and over the top. There are bolded words, italicized words, lots of all-caps text, and multiple question marks and exclamation points — often a mix of several of these things are combined. And yo, reading this in a physical copy was exhausting to look at the page with all of that. I actually switched to a digital library copy because I just couldn’t handle it. So this was an unusual case where the actual format and look of the words on the page almost had me wanting to DNF it.

If asked what the plot points were, I’d say there are about 2, maybe 3. It’s not a very actiony book. The main trigger of finding the XY boy happens, and for the majority of the book, it’s a focus on River’s beliefs that are being challenged and interactions with the XY. There’s some self-doubt, some reexamination of cultural norms and understandings, and even a good amount of political and societal commentary. It all felt very age appropriate to the character, who was a teen still in school (probably 16 – 18). So come into this expecting more of a mental and reflective focus as opposed to tension and chases or drama.

There is some of that, but it again comes more from the internal struggles the character faces.

Oh lord, and I have to mention the problem of the uptalk. Uptalk is what River and her community call slang from the 1990s, which is apparently what all the grandmothers who were alive during the big plague thing that killed all the men or whatever. And it. Is. Everywhere. My god, if the italics and bold and ALL CAPS WRITING weren’t difficult enough to get through, then it added in what feels like forced, outdated casual speech coming from (apparently) an 80-something year old woman. It was awkward and unappealing.

The best things about this book were the dedication (it was to me! (you’ll see what I mean…)), the author’s notes, and the fact that it wasn’t just a direct reversal of role and power. The author’s note addressed the third thing there, in saying that she wasn’t trying to create a commentary of saying women are better than men, but rather to look at what might be different and how to find that balance in our existing world. I think that’s a rare fair take in books where women are as powerful and in control as men are in our current world.

Overall I wasn’t super impressed with the story, and the style and dialogue were huge turnoffs. I’d probably recommending skipping this one unless you’ve never read anything with this premise before that you might end up comparing it to (or if you have an alphabet challenge requiring an X title).


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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