Thursday, January 15, 2015

P.O.W.ER by Lisa A. Kramer: A Review


Lisa A. Kremer


Word Hermit Press; December 1, 2014
Paperback, Kindle, 291 pages
YA Speculative Feminist Fiction

What would happen if women and girls joined their unique abilities together to change the world? In a world where access to the written word is reserved to men, Andra BetScrivener has been able to read and write ever since she was a little girl without anyone teaching her. She must keep her abilities a secret in the country of New North, or she could lose her hands, her eyes or her life. In fact, the only paths offered to her–and all young women–are to either marry or enter the government-run Women’s Training Program, where she’ll be taught “feminine” arts like drawing, painting, and homemaking.
On her seventeenth birthday, Andra discovers that her abilities extend beyond reading. She can write events to life. As she begins to explore her new ability, she must take care not to jeopardize her father’s job as head scrivener at the Ministry. Despite her efforts to keep her powers hidden, she comes to the attention of both the government and a rebel group, who each desire to use Andra for their own goals. At the same time, she begins to meet other gifted women who have never dared use their unique powers. With the help of her friends Brian and Lauren—who has the ability to read minds—Andra must find a way to unite the power of women to create change.
When one side manipulates Andra’s words into killing someone, and the other threatens her father’s life and her own freedom, Andra decides to use her writing to empower others to stop governmental oppression. But in a society ruled by lies, cruelty, and inequality her journey will not be easy or safe.
For each book sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to causes that support women and children around the world.

My Review
Blending  on the imaginative canvas of speculative fiction the dark tints of a dystopian novel and the refreshing perspective of a YA first person narrative, P.O.W.ER echoes The Hunger Games political setting of a totalitarian regime and class division, but addresses, with grace and intelligence, issues that are more tragically anchored in reality.
"It is acknowledged by the leading scientists of our time  that female brains are weaker and frailer than their male counterparts.  Studies conducted by the New North's  premier scientists have shown the danger to women's brains if they are introduced to inappropriate knowledge."
In Andra BetScrivener’s dystopian world (the Territories of New North), the Supreme Prime Minister has every citizen believe that given the smaller size and structure of women’s brain, as well as the electrical activity marked when certain forms of information are acquired, the input of knowledge through the process of reading causes a massive surge of brain electricity that supposedly  has an adverse effect on women’s ability to function normally in the world. Continuous exposure may lead to death. This effect is less noticeable  when women are engaged in feminine arts (art, music, nurturing children, housekeeping). The Lord did not intend  women to read, write, or do anything beyond basic addition and subtraction. For their own sake, they must be protected from absorbing dangerous  information through literacy and mathematics. So it happens that our heroine, daughter of the government Head Scrivener, grew up among books she wasn’t allowed to read and with mental powers she wasn't allowed to use.
The idea of a society where women's rights to literacy, education, and freedom to choose a profession or a husband are brutally and uncaringly violated, in the name of prejudices and false beliefs, carries a tragic resonance that belongs to the current newsfeeds of the international press rather than an alternate universe portrayed in the pages of a fictional work.

Lisa Kramer's social commentary and not-so-veiled criticism of all corporatist and fascist ideologies that obstruct women's empowerment across social strata, religious groups, and racial enclaves, are the strongest feature of this speculative novel: handled with the fluidity and simplicity of a first person POV that engages the reader and deftly establishes an emotional connection with  the young narrator, P.O.W.ER's political subtext hums with feminist pleas of gender equality, social justice, and ethnic tolerance. An approachable and thematically vigorous read. 4.5 stars
***Review copy generously offered by the author in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.


About the Author

Lisa A. Kramer has spent her life learning, creating, and exploring the world through theatre, writing, traveling and collaborating as an educator. She has lived in nine states and two countries (including Japan). She holds a PhD in Theatre for Youth, an MFA in Theatre Directing, and a BA in English Language & Literature and Theatre. She has published non-fiction articles in journals specializing on Theatre for Young Audiences, as well articles aimed at young people for Listen Magazine. In addition to young adult novels, she has ventured into the world of short stories, and has stories for adults in several of the Theme-Thology series published by and available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. When not writing, Lisa shares her love of the arts and the power of story as co-founder of heArtful Theatre Company and as adjunct faculty at various colleges and universities. She also spends time enjoying New England with her husband, daughter, and two dogs from her home base in central Massachusetts.

Her latest book is the YA speculative feminist fiction, P.O.W.ER.
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  1. An utterly fascinating review Mina. You seem to gravitate toward the most interesting books!

  2. Thank you so much for this really thoughtful review. I love learning a little bit more about my own work.