The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Dorrit is dispensable. Society says she’s not needed because she unmarried, childless and doesn’t work in one of the specified professions that would give her an exemption for failing to fulfil her duties as a woman. Having just turned fifty, Dorrit has earned herself a one way trip to the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material.

From now on it was important that I was kept in good condition and good health in every way. That was the whole point, after all.

It’s almost like an all expenses paid resort, where your food, entertainment, medical expenses and even shopping are on the house. All it costs is your life.

A dystopia for the childless, this book introduces readers to a democratic society that’s come to the conclusion that every body is a commodity. Those who have been designated dispensable – fifty year old women and sixty year old men who don’t have children – have all of their needs met as they participate in drug trials and experiments, and ‘donate’ their organs to the indispensable.

The best dystopias are the ones you can imagine happening. The worst dystopias are the ones you can imagine happening. This is a best-worst dystopia.

I liked Dorrit and, despite the circumstances, enjoyed seeing her belong for the first time in her life. I loved the camaraderie between her and the friends she made at the Unit. I had such hope for her when she found love.

Then I remembered this was a dystopia and all of the things I loved about this book became things that could be taken away from Dorrit and, by extension, myself as I became more and more invested in her story.

Interestingly, while I liked most of the characters, I didn’t become emotionally attached to any of them. When I learned about various characters having made their final donation I was interested but didn’t need a single tissue.

Considering how much money was being invested in keeping dispensables as healthy as possible for as long as possible (alcohol isn’t even allowed), I wondered how management would feel about the potential drug trials had to destroy previously viable organs.

Content warnings include mention of abortion. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Oneworld Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In paradise, nobody can hear you scream.

Ninni Holmqvist’s eerie dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future where men and women deemed economically worthless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. With lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities, elaborate gourmet meals, and wonderful music and art, they are free of financial worries and want for nothing. It’s an idyllic place, but there’s a catch: the residents – known as dispensables – must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation. When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt.  

Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a spine-chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.

The Sky is Mine – Amy Beashel

Spoilers Ahead!

Everyone seems to think Izzy is fine, but she’s not. Izzy and her mother’s life with Daniel had a fairytale beginning. The fairytale fractured a long time ago but Izzy’s mother can’t/won’t protect them.

And I get that she’s scared, cos me too. But I’ve been here before, watching her literally throw away some problem she can’t handle.

Then there’s Jacob from college, who’s blackmailing her by threatening to send photos from that night to everyone.

Izzy used to rely heavily on her best friend, Grace, for support but now that Grace is in love she’s not as available as she used to be. Even when they are spending time together Grace is preoccupied by being in love with being in love. There’s so much pressure building up inside Izzy and she feels alone.

If I thought it would make any difference, I would scream.

It’s been weeks since I finished reading this book but this is the first time I’ve actually been able to attempt anything approximating a review. This book was really well written and relatable. Some of its content hit very close to home for me, as if someone told it my address, so alongside my yeah, me too’s came emotions. So many emotions. I thought time and some emotional distance would help me write a well thought out, intellectual review, but it didn’t work that way so I’m afraid we’re all stuck with my feelings.

Not that you can love anything about the impacts of trauma but I did love the way I felt validated as I read. Whenever Izzy described the shame she felt or her self doubt or flashbacks or any other number of experiences that I’ve felt in the core of my being I wanted to somehow surgically remove those things from her. I knew what she was feeling and I knew her thoughts, often before she explained them to me.

But it doesn’t leave you. Even when your head tries to silence it, it’s still there.

I loved the concept of the Jar of Sunshine, even though its beauty was marred by its origin story. Unfortunately, even it was realistic; the ways we cope with trauma are inextricably linked with painful memories. Even if we find something that gives us strength, courage or a glimmer of hope in the midst of unbearable circumstances, that wonderful thing still reminds us of what it’s helping us to overcome.

I quite liked Rower Boy but I desperately wanted Izzy and Rower Boy to simply be friends. I always have trouble with narratives that includes a girl/woman who’s dealing with trauma being saved in any way by a boy/man, even if it’s only a little. That probably says more about me than it does about the book. However, I wanted Izzy to learn to stand on her own, without leaning on a man for support. I would have been happy for her to have gotten into a relationship once she’d had some counselling but I didn’t want any part of her self worth to be tangled up in Rower Boy, regardless of how nice he was.

This is a difficult read but an important one. If you have experienced abuse please be safe while reading this book.

‘What he did is not who you are, Izzy. It doesn’t define you.’

Content warnings include abortion, domestic violence, emotional abuse, fat shaming, grooming, mention of abuse of an animal, physical abuse, sexual assault, slut shaming and verbal abuse.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Rock the Boat, an imprint of Oneworld Publications, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

No one has ever asked Izzy what she wants. She’s about to change all that …

In a house adept at sweeping problems under the carpet, seventeen-year-old Izzy feels silenced. As her safety grows uncertain, Izzy know three things for sure. She knows not to tell her mother that Jacob Mansfield has been threatening to spread those kinds of photos around college. She knows to quiet the grief that she’s been abandoned by her best friend Grace. And, seeing her mother conceal the truth of her stepdad’s control, Izzy also knows not to mention how her heart splinters and her stomach churns whenever he enters a room.

When the flimsy fabric of their life starts to unravel, Izzy and her mum must find their way out of the silence and use the power in their voices to rediscover their worth.