Brave New Girl by Rachel Vincent

bng‘…you’re not a mistake. In fact, you’re kind of a miracle. … The girl who shouldn’t exist.’” – Trigger 17, p. 152

Brave New Girl (Delacorte Press, 2017) is a YA dystopian novel by Rachel Vincent. The story is about Dahlia 16, a clone who was engineered to become a hydroponic gardener. Dahlia is one of 5,000 identical girls with the same DNA, all designed for the efficiency and productivity of their city, Lakeview.

‘You are just one pixel out of the thousands required to form a clear image, so you need to focus on that image as a whole.’” – Cady 34, p. 14

Among the rules of this stringent society are no ego, no individualization, and no fraternizing with people outside their divisions – especially not people of the opposite sex. But when a freak incident traps Dahlia in a broken elevator with a young Special Forces cadet named Trigger 17, Dahlia finds herself facing forbidden feelings she doesn’t even know how to define: fascination, curiosity, and infatuation.

I can hardly imagine how different his classes must be from mine. I learn how to nurture life, and he learns how to take it.” – p. 23

‘He’s…beautiful.’ I can’t figure out how else to explain. ‘And he’s dangerous.’” – p. 33

There’s something different about Dahlia, because her identical sisters don’t understand her feelings for the cadet. But if she wants to be with Trigger, then she must risk everything – including the lives of those very sisters. For, if Dahlia acts on her feelings, her genome will be recalled, meaning every friend she’s ever had will be euthanized.

“‘Faith in the system is ultimately of far more importance than any individual within it.’
What about five thousand individuals?” – p. 126

“I have to know what’s wrong with me. Why my defects will mean doom for thousands of perfectly perfect girls.” – p. 126

With such a steep price to pay – not just for herself, but for so many others – I would’ve hoped for a stronger romance between Dahlia and Trigger. The weakest point of this otherwise imaginative and gripping little novel was that Dahlia and Trigger’s romance fell flat. I had trouble feeling what they felt for each other or understanding why they’d make such tremendous sacrifices for someone they barely knew. The elevator scene that catalyzed everything wasn’t long or impactful enough; Dahlia hardly speaks to Trigger. Their relationship was insta-love, more of a plot device for a sci-fi thriller than the heart of a romance. So, I would’ve liked them to have shared more air-time and chemistry together before turning their worlds upside down for each other.

With that in mind, what makes this book worth reading is the capable dystopian world-building, the twisted revelation at the end, and the writing itself. Vincent’s style of writing in this book shares the same superb, concise simplicity as other YA dystopias, such as The Selection series, Soundless by Richelle Mead (which I know is more of a folktale, but carried dystopian vibes at times), and Atlantia by Ally Condie. This story held some of the best qualities of those books, but mostly reminded me of Delirium by Lauren Oliver – in how the characters aren’t allowed to fall in love, and what it costs them to do so – and Matched by Ally Condie. There were also some elements of The Giver, in terms of the city in which everyone is assigned their distinct roles, and from which escape is near-impossible.

WARNING: Brave New Girl *does* end on a major cliffhanger, so the story is definitely not over when you reach the last sentence! Much of this book does feel like it’s setting up for, or leading up to, the sequel. The sample I read of the sequel actually seems even more interesting (I love Prince & the Pauper-type stories about a working girl colliding with royalty/socialites). All things considered, I had an overall good time with this book and will be reading the sequel, Strange New World, as soon as it comes out in May 2018.

Memorable Quotes

Soldiers are all different from their identicals. They fit in because they’re different. That’s so absurd it almost makes sense.” – p. 27

‘The toy soldier who woke up Sleeping Beauty. Too bad the world will never hear that story.’” – Wexler 42, p. 178

None of the others were caught kissing a  boy they had no business speaking to. None of the others are running for their lives. None of the others have condemned thousands of their sisters to a hopefully peaceful but very permanent death.” – p. 184

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