Books of a dystopian, science-fiction nature can be challenging to many readers. George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, or Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games are well-known novels that describe an ugly society set in the future. It can be difficult to visualize a place that is so out of order; it depicts exaggerated social unrest to the point its people are living in extreme suffering, but it often is amplifying the ugly truths that exist in our everyday lives. The young adult, science fiction genre is generally an acquired taste, but Braintown manages to combine an important element in its storyline that sets it aside from plenty of books in this section.
Braintown’s backdrop is set to the year 2060. The birthday of 17-year old Alice Garcia begins with an unexpected inquiry into the place where she has spent her whole life; she wakes up with a vast amount of questions about her family, friends, fellow students, and everyone she has ever known in the course of her young lifetime. For years, her mother and father have been demanding from Alice an unattainable level of flawless aesthetics, encouraging her to closely hew to the standards of beauty that will get her ahead in life. Beyond her parents, the authority figures in the book are characters who draw women into submission. The females are shown as subservient in a patriarchal society. But, Alice’s birthday investigation leads her to initiate a process of self-discovery, taking her on a journey to find her truth. She soon learns of her abilities and unique talents, transforming her young life.
The author, Laura Elizabeth Hernandez, wrote the book from her own perspective, loosely based on a version of her own personal story, channeling her life experiences through Alice; this story is about her life written in a different realm. There are instances throughout the book where readers will find hidden references of experiences from her past. Examples like the Mirror Room, Plastic Surgery Room, or Romantic Boost Room serve as portals where characters encounter distorted ideals that discourage a woman’s confidence and independence. These tribulations ultimately beg the question, if it were not for the empowerment of today’s female, who knows what our world would look like? If women were to sit back instead of fighting to be heard, our voices may never be heard. Towns could very well resemble a similar downfall like Braintown.
Hernandez worked for seven years to deliver this book, a process that recalls the many years she spent trying to prove herself worthy of her basketball team while quietly experiencing a similar dilemma as Alice’s character. It has been difficult, but she achieved her goals. The lead in Braintown displays empowerment, strength, and persistence, a comparable tenacity demonstrated by it’s creator. The writer pushing through to the other side is admirable, and she did it without changing herself. These actions are a true testament to the things we can accomplish if we are unafraid to find life’s answers.
Work of this kind is not often found but is crucial enough to society to take its rightful place on bookshelves shelves everywhere. Hernandez’s book will appeal to young adults who see themselves in Alice’s process of coming of age, but it will also ring true to adults who will find themselves reflecting on their own experiences and convictions. The book demands that self-perception, judgment, and independence of the female in the future must be explored. Independent thinkers like Alice can help readers navigate challenges encountered on their own ongoing journey.
Both Alice Garcia and Laura Elizabeth Hernandez are warriors that face life’s questions head-on, fearlessly. No one can strip you of your identity once you own it.