First sentence from the Prologue: REPENTANCE ATWATER STOOD BESIDE HER little sister, Comfort, studying the damp ground where all the mushrooms grew.
Premise/plot: Repentance has always been taught to reverence Providence; from the time she was a girl she's been taught the will of Providence, taught to submit to the will of Providence no matter the personal cost. But Repentance is sixteen, and, she has a decision to make. Should she accept the status quo and button with Sober? If she does the first two boys they have will belong to the Overlord and become slaves. (For Repentance and Sober both live in a breeder village.) If she does not button with Sober, then she herself--and Sober--will become slaves, will be carted away from their families and SOLD. A happy ending seems impossible, no one that she knows has fought back, resisted, persevered and won against the Overlords. Should she be the first from Hot Springs to do so?
As you might have gathered, The Button Girl is a fantasy novel. I would say it is best for young adults and adults. Repentance herself is sixteen, but, the decisions she makes thrust her into a very adult world. A world where young women, especially attractive young women are sold as sex slaves. The book isn't just about sex slaves, though, but about slavery itself. The world in which Repentance and Sober live, slavery is a harsh reality--the way things are, the way things have been for over two hundred years.
My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED the world-building in this fantasy novel. Readers learn alongside Repentance, the heroine. (This is a great way to show not tell, a way to avoid the info dump.) And the magical elements do, in part, make this a fascinating read. But even more than the world itself, I love the story and the characters. I love Repentance. I love her determination, her feisty spirit. I love that she follows her heart, her conscience. I love that she doesn't accept that the way things are is the way things have to be forever and ever. I love her loyalty and selflessness. But even more than I love Repentance, I love and adore Sober. But the more I talk about Sober, the more I gush more likely, the greater the chance of spoiling this one. He's a GOOD guy.
Inside she’d been weeping and wailing all her life. She could go along with the buttoning, that’s what she could do. She could learn to be content like everyone else. But she was not like everyone else. She tried to be. She wanted to be. She had practiced the precepts of Providence since she was no bigger than a swamp rat. To be discontent is to complain against Providence himself, to call him a liar, to say he has not provided as he ought. And yet, Repentance Atwater was not content living in the breeder village. She was not content with the fog that clung like a burial shroud. She was not content with the muggy, oppressive heat, which threatened to smother her. And, most assuredly, she was not content to be buttoned to Sober Marsh and to bear sons for the overlords to take as slaves.
Providence desires us to be honest, merciful, and joyous. Perfect! Except you couldn’t be all three at once. Honesty sucked all the joy right out of a body.
“I’m not really your merchandise, you know,” Repentance said, selecting another potato from the basket on the floor. “You can’t tell me what to think. What’s inside is the real me, and that’s between me and Providence. You can’t own that part.” Jadin burst out laughing. “You are welcome to your insides, Repentance. I cannot package and sell them. No man cares to buy the thoughts of a silly girl.”
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews