Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Thank you to the author for providing me with a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
In The 716, we follow our two protagonists Andy and Olivia through a dystopian future where gender norms are completely swapped--only women are allowed to hold power, compete for the best jobs, and attend universities. I've been following Pratt for about 6 months on Instagram, and with every update about her new release, I was more and more excited to read it, and it did not disappoint! Where to begin? The world building. This is probably my favorite thing about this book. World building is difficult enough, but especially so in complex genres like fantasy and sci-fi where you have to create your own world, political system, etc. from scratch. But Pratt handled this phenomenally! She delivers small bite-sized pieces at a time--enough for you to get a feel for her intricate world and complex characters, but nothing at all that's overwhelming. I felt like I was there with Andy and Olivia (and a couple other POVs sprinkled in) and learning everything with them as my guides. I will say that I was a bit lost when it came to the engineering jargon, but that's no fault of the author! It's just a field I'm unfamiliar with. I absolutely loved Andy and empathized with him throughout. He's the underdog here, which is my favorite type of character! It was heartbreaking seeing him just arm's length away from his dreams but being banned from pursuing just because he was born the wrong gender. But w
hen he meets and grows close to Olivia, that changes... sorta. She's willing to help him sneak in and take the REAL Test, a test that only girls are allowed to take that determines what opportunities they'll have. Olivia was a tad bit irritating at times, but she's meant to be. She's the daughter of Meliora's leader and has been primed to take on that leadership position after her mother. Coming from a background of power and everything she could ever want, it makes sense that her views would be skewed. But what's great about her is her willingness to change, to view things differently, to challenge the world that created her. She and Andy make a fantastic duo. The only thing I didn't really care for with these two was the romance. It felt
a bit stilted and was entirely too predictable from the way we see Andy talk about her in his narrative in the very first chapter (how everyone views Olivia as the most popular, beautiful, intelligent, etc. woman in the nation). To me, this book is a commentary on the sexism and gender expectations we have today. Showing it happening to the people in our world who have traditionally held all of the power may sting a bit, but that's needed. We can't move forward as the human race until we can understand--to the best of our ability--what the other side has to face. It also challenges the infuriating gender norms that we all know: girls have to act this way; only boys can do that; girls have to dress like this; boys can't wear that because it's 'feminine.' More than that, I feel like this also challenges more recent ideals of gender expectations and equality. It begs the question: Is this too far? Is there any sort of middle ground we can meet at? Is fighting our centuries worth of oppression by becoming the oppressors really the way to fix things?