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A book by Lesley Hauge

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Wonder Woman or Barbie?

  • Apr 28, 2010
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Lesley Hauge's "Nomansland" delivers a post-apocalyptic punch meant to deliver a message to pre-teen and teenage girls regarding modern lifestyles.

Depicting a world where some global catastrophe has rendered the progression of what we now know and live impossible, the community called Nomansland formulated by extreme measures of survival consists of only women--man-hating/fearing horseback riders and archers that vaguely suggest the Amazons of Greek mythology. Ruled by a council with a headmistress and propagated by clinical "seeding," the girl women of Nomansland work their island land the old-fashioned way without technological advancement. Rules and regulation drown the need for adornment and individuality, subjecting any violator to public humiliation, beating and/or forced breeding and servitude. If that doesn't make the commune to end all communes sound like a cross between Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)" and George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," add the `women-only' factor without the honor and sisterhood of Wonder Woman's Themyscira and you get a huddle of frightened inmates all too willing to rat on each other while trying to figure out their own identities within the narrow confines of a survival of the fittest hierarchy.

Now as in all such stories, the limited environment cannot contain the ever-expansion of freethinking, voiced in this tale by the narration of Keller--a teenage Tracker who sees a little more than she should, but unguided can only envision the microcosm of her world within the constraints of what she knows. When Laine, a fellow Tracker, finds a hidden treasure trove of everyday items from the before the disaster time, she triggers a flurry of individualism and rebellion that is universal to all teenagers, but lethal to the community of young women of Nomansland.

Keller's voice compels the reader to turn the pages quickly; the world she describes, albeit a familiar post-apocalyptic back-to-basics one, fascinates with its stark suppression of that which we associate with normal teenage activities and motivations. Hauge does a fine job of depicting the natural curiosity of Keller along with her innate sense of survival and outrage over what she considers the utter wasteful lives pre-catastrophe teenagers lived. Puzzled over the function of members of a technologically driven world, Keller compares her life of hunting and tracking with the soft life of girly-girls pampering themselves with nail polish and perfume. Middle school teachers are sure to find some interesting themes within Hauge's story to initiate discussion of not only the definition of today's world but of modern life.

Hauge ends `Nomansland' with a bit of a cliffhanger that may promise a series. If so, I, for one, would look forward to reading it.

Bottom line? Leslie Hauge writes a compelling post apocalyptic tale of the struggle for identity on an island ruled by women suppressing personal freedom to maintain their power of containment. Hauge's familiar Dystopian landscape of living off the land without the benefit of technology may be overlooked as formulaic but her depiction of her teenaged inhabitants, fierce and muscled by their food gathering activities yet transformed into a mass of giggling Barbies at the sight of cosmetics and high-heeled shoes will surely invoke thinking conversation about our modern world and our functioning places within it. Look for a sequel as "Nomansland" ends a bit prematurely with the narrator entering yet another Brave New World. Recommended--not just for young adults but, for parents willing to discuss. Reader's guide may be necessary for some.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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More Nomansland reviews
review by . June 07, 2010
Keller lives a strict and controlled life with all women in Foundland. They are each assigned tasks, and are expected to carry them out in perfect order and with complete obedience in order to avoid the major pitfalls of women in the past that led to humanity's downfall. Keller is a novice Tracker, and spends her days learning how to hunt and kill the enemy: men. But when Keller the rest of the novices in her patrol find a dwelling from the Time Before, Keller's life is forever changed. In a bedroom …
review by . May 19, 2010
Nomansland is a pretty good story about a group of Amazon-type women who live in a postapocaliptic world. Their world is one which is tightly governed by rules and restrictions. Girls strictly are raised with specific tasks in mind. There are the Housekeepers, Librarians, Cooks, Mothers, etc. As many have mentioned, this is similar to Lois Lowry's book The Giver. But, I think this book is more reminiscent of Lowry's Gathering Blue, the second one in the 'series' and Ayn Rand's Anthem in its largely …
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Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #166
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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Gr 7 Up–Keller is a teenage tracker-in-training in a future dystopia where no men are allowed. All vanity has been abolished, and even friendships are forbidden. Keller is alienated and, at first, mildly dissatisfied with her hardscrabble existence. She and her fellow novices find a buried tract house from the time before, and discover makeup, fashion magazines, and flattering clothing. Meanwhile, their elders are hot on the trail of this discovery, as objects from the time before are coveted as talismans of power. And that's about it–the plot is dry and eventless. Hauge is a fine writer and has a light hand with minor characters, and the nasty ones are especially well wrought. The sober, economical prose sets a steady pace and dismal mood. However, Keller's arc from discomfort to rebelliousness is more show than tell. Unfortunately, this stock combination of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (Random, 1989) and Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993) isn't half as emotionally affecting as either novel. In fact, the dystopian stereotypes–bad weather, possible Others beyond the borders, colorless everything–dilute an otherwise fine narrative. No amount of solid prose can save this book from itself. Teens waiting for Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay (Scholastic, 2010) won't find much distraction here.Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
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ISBN-10: 0805090649
ISBN-13: 978-0805090642
Author: Lesley Hauge
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
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