Book Review: The Only Boy by Jordan Locke

The Only BoyThe Only Boy
Jordan Locke
CreateSpace, December 2013
ISBN 978-1494415594
Trade Paperback

From the author—

After a global epidemic wipes out all the men, a girl must decide whether to help the only boy…or betray him.

Mary is stuck in Section One, living with three hundred women in a crumbling hospital. She wonders what life was like before the Cleansing wiped out all the men. But the rules-the Matriarch’s senseless rules-prevent her from exploring the vacant city to find out.

Taylor’s got a dangerous secret: he’s a boy. His compound’s been destroyed, and he’s been relocated to Section One. Living under the Matriarch means giving up possessions, eating canned food and avoiding all physical contact. Baggy clothes hide his flat chest and skinny legs, but if anyone discovers what lies beneath, he’ll be exiled. Maybe even executed.

Mary’s never seen a boy-the Matriarch cut the pictures of men from the textbooks-and she doesn’t suspect Taylor’s secret. If she knew, she might understand the need to stop the girls from teasing him. If she knew, she might realize why she breaks the rules, just to be near him. Then again, she might be frightened to death of him.

Taylor should go. The Matriarch is watching his every move. But running means leaving Mary-and braving the land beyond the compound’s boundaries.

There have been earlier stories about one gender or the other being nearly wiped out but a good author can always find ways to make a concept fresh and Jordan Locke has succeeded in doing just that. Here, we have people who’ve never known the touch of another human because the killer disease can still be passed from one to another. Imagine that, a world in which touching is strictly forbidden. At first, one might think such a lack can be acceptable considering the alternative but it soon becomes clear that not everyone can handle it.

Certain players in The Only Boy really come to life, especially Mary and Taylor but also Wren, Jade, the Matriarch, even the miserable Katherine who has reasons for being such a bully. Mary and Taylor each tell the story from their own points of view and both are truly sympathetic characters as they begin to learn each other’s secrets and a few truths that have been hidden for years.

Worldbuilding is generally nicely done but there are some hiccups. We know that it has been at least decades since all the men died so how is it Section One can still be finding and eating apparently unlimited supplies of canned goods within their relatively small territory and why aren’t the cans swollen and full of botulism? Taking it a step further, with their scientific studies over time, why do they still rely on canned goods instead of learning ways to live off the land or, for that matter, create synthetic foods for themselves? I also wonder how there can be trees or agriculture if the disease killed off plants like flowers.

And just how long has it been? In one place decades are mentioned, in another there is a reference to centuries of decay but surely that’s not right; news is still being broadcast on TV and Pepsi commercials play. Why have so many animals and insects gone extinct but not all unless it has indeed been centuries?

There will be several more installments in the series so I’ll assume many of these questions will be answered and that we’ll also find out about Sections Two through Six  and possibly more. I do want to know more about the characters we’ve met here and I’ll be looking for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2014.