Law dedicates that all R'tan first born girls must be left in the wilderness to die or be forced to grow up as a declared male. When Tiadone is born her father declares her a male to save her from death. Tiadone is forced to grow up as a boy and hide her femininity. When she reaches puberty, Tiadone is sent away. He grows and learns to be her true self.
Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover has a great premise. I love discussions about gender and what it really means to be a woman, a man or something entirely different. But, for me, this book fell short of my high expectations.
First, the good stuff. Tiadone has a rebellious streak and is androgynous in the best way. I liked some of the world building and Tiadone's inner struggle when she's fighting over her thoughts which are supposed to show that she's a woman.
Now, the not so good stuff.
It didn't highlight gender enough. I saw a clear distinction between the two genders, but there was nothing that stepped away from traditional gender roles. All of Tiadone's ideas that were deemed "female" were a traditional idea of what women think and feel. When Tiadone's thoughts wander to the male sex he never considers that he could be queer or that his thoughts for his male counterparts are a natural part of life. There was no blurring of the lines. There were just two boxes and Tiadone was supposed to fit in one or the other. This sort of book should have had Tiadone smashing those boxes.
The first half of this book was difficult to read. I kept waiting for the
build up to be over, the introduction of character and how the world
worked, and move into the meat of the story, but that never happened. This book was about Tiadone and how she comes to be true to herself, but I felt that the stakes were never high enough. Some bad stuff happened to Tiadone, but it was never horribly bad. It never reached that high point where everything is on the line.
This book also had a lot of repetition. I don't know how many times I read the word "centreself" or the various variations of movement. I wouldn't have minded if the book was really good, but with the combination of the problems and the addition of the term "centreself", the repetition really stuck out.
I'm going to give this book 6/10 stars because, while I did enjoy parts of it, the problems this book have are just too hard to ignore.
I'd suggest though, that if you still like the idea of this book that you check it out and have a read so you can come to your own conclusion about it. Who knows, you might like it.
Anjulie Te Pohe
Founder of Koru Mag | Mookychick contributor | Avid reader and writer of YA | Takatapui (Maori & bi/queer) | She/Them | Contact: email@example.com