Review – Mandate: THIRTEEN by Joseph J. Dowling

As a new entrant to the Game of Thrones fandom, I become positively feral whenever I spot and understand a subtle reference, so imagine my shock when there was a mention of the direwolves from GOT. Fun fact: GOT was one of our protagonist’s favorite shows when he was young – this is dystopian in every way that matters.

Mandate: THIRTEEN lives up to its primary comp title – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – as it takes place in a futuristic world riddled with declining fertility rates, an authoritarian and highly-centralized government, poverty, a heavily-regulated economic sector, and unemployment. The twist, though, is that Michael, the male protagonist, takes matters into his hands – after the government decided to reduce the age of the compulsory checks to 13 – and spirits his fertile thirteen-year-old daughter, Hope, away from London before she could be forced into the government birthing schools or taken into the baby farms after her horrid mother sells her for a lump sum. 

What follows is an action-packed, cross-country adventure between the father and daughter duo, as they dodge the authorities, reconnect with old acquaintances, and meet new people (good, bad, and crazy), forging connections at every stop. I loved every aspect of their journey and how they learned so much about themselves on the way. I especially appreciated how it was much more than just evading the government, and their personalities and hidden secrets unraveled bit by bit, and I love how they came to a new understanding of each other. They laid roots and built foundations, and learned a lesson every step of the way, which I ultimately saw as the development of their characters. 

I did find it a little hard to understand how Hope, a somewhat sheltered thirteen-year-old, had so many strong opinions about everything from climate change to relationships, but this didn’t make the book any less interesting. Also, I felt that the many sections that focused on Miko(the baby farmer) and the other adjunct characters were quite distracting and that real-estate could very well have been dedicated to developing Michael and Hope’s characters, but, again, that didn’t affect the quality of the book. 

I believe every reader would enjoy the smooth prose, fluid dialogue, and compelling storyline. Nothing beats a book that leans on the familial bonds between characters, and Mandate: THIRTEEN has this feature on lock. This was an easy read through and through, and it will be a worthy addition to any library. 

Add to library: Goodreads

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