ARC Review: The XY by Virginia Bergen|Controversial but still a great read!

About the book

by Virginia Bergin From the author of H2O

She’s been taught to fear him.
He’s been taught to fear her.
What if they’re both wrong?

In River’s world, XYs are a relic of the past, along with things like war and violence. Thanks to the Global Agreements, River’s life is simple, safe, and peaceful…until she comes across a body in the road one day. A body that is definitely male, definitely still alive.

River isn’t prepared for this. There’s nothing in the Agreements about how to deal with an XY. Yet one lies before her, sick, suffering, and at her mercy.

River can kill him, or she can save him. Either way, nothing will ever be the same.

“They said that,” he murmured. “They said you was lost without us.”
“We are not lost,” she said, calmly. “We are running the world.”

My Thoughts

First Impression

I was so excited when I received this book! Upon initial reading of the blurb, it kind of reminded me of The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness but after reading, I soon realized that they were nothing alike. I have read many reviews prior to reading and I almost did not pick it up but I really wanted to see for myself what it was all about and make my own decision on how I felt about it.

Do I agree with some readers thoughts? Yes! Do I agree with all of them? No! Did I enjoy the book? Somewhat, and I will tell you why…

Some slight spoilers ahead…WARNING!

The Plot

The book takes place about 60 years from now. A virus had hit our world and attacked all of our men. Men almost went extinct and those that were able to survive had to go into sanctuaries to continue to live. The world as we know it on the outside is run by all women. The men cannot survive outside the sanctuary and if they try, they always die.

I honesty really liked what the women had done. There is zero crime. They all work together to uphold their principles that they had set up. They have a National Council kind of like our government where you have to be an elected official and they have a council on a smaller scale made up of 150 members that votes on individual issues within their community. If there is a crime committed, like lying or stealing, the person’s family member decides on their retribution.

The loss of men really takes it’s toll on these women. They basically trade their goods for sperm so that they can continue to produce children. Each time a boy is born, if he survives the journey, they turn the baby over to the men in the sanctuary since this is their only chance at survival. This is always a sad day and the women memorialize their boys by decorating trees within a park in the village. This is to honor them and have something in remembrance of the children they had lost.

Our main character, River, is out collecting apples with her horse, Milpy, when she stumbles upon a figure lying in the road. She is not sure what to do because she knows that this is not a girl and she had never seen a man before but she can just tell that it is different. They get into an altercation and she almost leaves him to die alone but according to their ethics, they are suppose to assist someone dying but does that apply to boys too? She is not sure? So she loads him on her wagon and takes him home where a flurry of excitement happens and a whole lot of danger begins.

The Characters

There are so many characters in this book. They all play a key role in the plot but I will just list off some of my favorites.

  • River: The story is told from River’s POV and I really enjoyed her. She wants to do the right thing all the time and values the principles that she has grown up on. She has such a hard time with lying and doing things behind everyone’s back. She adores her family and I feel that she learned a valuable lesson within the book.
  • Mason: He is just trying to escape an awful situation while trying so hard to trust the women. He had been brought up believing awful things about them. He is also fiercely loyal and proves this through his actions. I cannot say that I immediately liked him but I had grown to adore him through the book.
  • Kate: She is River’s grandmother and sadly misses all the men in their world. When River brings home the boy, she is determined to do everything in her power to save him. Even if she will be defying every principle they have ever written.

There are so many more characters such as the Grandmummas, the older grandmotherly women within the village. Plat, whom is River’s best friend and love. Sweet, whom is a younger girl from the town.


I honestly did not feel that the author was bashing men in any way or that the book was written in that light? Yes, she wrote the book from a female POV in which made the whole plot surrounding men seem like they were scary. River had learned a valuable lesson by meeting Mason. She learned to trust him so when she had the chance to help another man…she did! But, he was nothing like Mason and tried to rape her. She had to learn that the world is not always perfect.

I did not have a problem with the book until almost the end when everyone decided that River was more important to save than Mason. This was where I got frustrated. They felt that they could not mess up their plans and that the sperm was more important than saving one man’s life unfortunately.

Luckily the author redeemed herself by creating such a strong willed character in River. River fought for Mason and her & Kate came up with the perfect plan to save him.

Honestly, the ending of the book, I could have done without. It felt like it just went on forever. But, it proved again what strength our main character had when she insisted on turning herself in.

Overall, Am I glad that I read it? YES! It was different and unique and really a great story. It is one that gets you really thinking about what if??

If you are curious, then pick it up. I would love to hear your thoughts too.

Trigger warnings

Violence, Rape, Gender Discussions

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy in exchange of an honest review.

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