Popsugar Reading challenge category: A book becoming a TV series or movie in 2023
The Power, by Naomi Alderman
The premise to this story sounds like straightforward feminist wish-fulfillment: women and girls develop the ability to give a powerful (or even deadly) electric shock by touch. Suddenly it's men, not women, afraid to walk alone at night. Rapists find the tables turned, trafficked women rise up, and whole countries are overthrown.
But the book is really about power itself, and how it changes those who have it and those who don't, individually and societally. In one early scene, women at work are joking about using the power. The one man there says it isn't funny, and he's told to "calm down." Later, he has to worry about not seeming "too angry." Within a few years, an Eastern European country has decreed the same sorts of restrictions on men that we currently associate with Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. There's a female-on-male rape scene that's absolutely horrifying and not even slightly sexy.
We follow several characters through the tumultuous ten years after the power emerges. Roxy is a British gangster's daughter. Margot is a rising American politician; her daughter Jocelyn has the power only intermittently. Tunde is a male journalist from Nigeria, trying to capture the story of a changing world. And Allie is a runaway who starts a goddess religion, renaming herself Mother Eve.
The book's framing device takes it to another level. At the beginning, there's an exchange of letters between a fictional "Naomi" and "Neil Adam Armon," who wants Naomi to read his manuscript for a historical novel called "The Power."
There are more letters at the end, and we learn that the world is now 5000 years past an event called the Cataclysm. Humans bombed each other back into the Stone Age, and civilization developed in a different direction. Naomi tells Neil that his story is fun but unrealistic; there's no reason to believe men were ever soldiers except in a few isolated cultures. Evolutionary psychology teaches that men are "naturally" gentle and nurturing, while women are warriors because they have babies to protect. As for the notion of men trafficking women for sex, the fictional Naomi giggles over the absurdity and "sexiness" of the idea. The things that are accepted as natural, inevitable gender differences are ultimately only a matter of power.