Book review of The Breeders by Katie Lynn French

I’d picked up The Breeders a couple of years ago when author Katie French and I were both involved in Author Salon.

She was one of the first people to leave the group and strike out on her own.

What Amazon says:

The Breeders

The Breeders

“When the Breeders come for ya, there ain’t no escape. They strap ya to a bed and all ya hear is the thud of your heart and the cries of your friends as they wheel ya down to hell. Then the doctors come. You squeeze your eyes shut and pray you can forget. But ya never do.”

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches—moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.

When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender—a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley’s affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom?

The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico—escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is forced into the Breeder’s hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother—a fate she’ll share unless she can find a way out.

My thoughts:

The novel opens in medias res, and the reader experiences first hand the dangerous world into which Riley has been born.

Her family’s farm is under attack and Riley must hide away in a storm cellar to avoid capture. The men responsible for the attack are armed and outnumber the farm’s defenders. If they get their hands on any of the women who could give birth to a healthy child, they’ll be sold to the Breeders.

Riley doesn’t really know who the Breeders are or what they’re capable of, but she believes the stories of her mother and auntie, and lives in constant fear for her safety and liberty.

A series of unfortunate events leads to the death of her step-father, Arn, who protected the family from the ravages of desperate men.

French keeps the pacing fast and the action fresh, rarely letting up on the throttle. The sense of danger established in the opening scene never lets up, even after the denouement, preparing the reader for the sequel.

The romantic subplot is deftly handled and the author offers some refreshing twists that pit Riley’s conflicting needs against one another.

The only dissatisfying bit was one character’s changing allegiance. While French is careful to plant the seeds of dissention in the good doctor’s speech and actions, the indications that he disagrees with his rich and powerful employer aren’t enough to make his sudden departure and support of Riley convincing.

His weasel-like behaviour only makes me think that he will betray Riley, and I found myself disappointed that Riley didn’t give any indication she sees it coming.

The Breeders is an excellent first novel and I’ve already purchased French’s second book, The Believers.

This YA dystopian paints a picture of scientific advancement gone wrong and its unexpected consequences. In a future in which boy babies far outnumber the girls, a working uterus becomes a treasure beyond value and a commodity worth killing for.

The “haves” are those that control the breeding program. Everyone else is a “have not” living in a wild-west world of testosterone-fuelled posturing and perpetual gang wars where women and children become both the ultimate victims and the ultimate heroes.

My rating:

4 out of 5 stars.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness:

An update on my television addiction and whether the series I’ve started to watch have offered any gems of Writerly Goodness; an update on the Sudbury Writers’ Guild critique sessions and other SWG changes; more book reviews and author interviews; a discussion of what I learned from the facilitating virtual classes course I’m taking; a monthly next chapter update on the writing biz, and any other things apropos of nothing as they occur 😉

What I learned observing the Business Expertise Advisor Curriculum

In between my wintery road trips and getting stuck in an elevator last week, I was actually in Toronto for work.

Last summer, while I was still an acting consultant, the opportunity to observe and/or facilitate this course arose. The initial plan was that two sessions would be held, one in January and one in February.

I would observe the course in January with an eye to facilitating it in February. Unfortunately, the second session never materialized. It may not be until next year that I’m able to try my facilitation chops out on this course.

It’s a long time to wait in the wacky world of facilitation.

Here’s what I learned:

1. The course is a very demanding one for facilitators.

Class1One of the facilitators, who had actually delivered the course once in the past, said she didn’t want to facilitate the course again. It’s a fairly cerebral course, and a lot of material is packed in to four and a half days.

The course is intended to be an introduction to the basic duties of an advisor and as such, it covers working on a virtual team, change management, interpersonal relationships, providing advice and guidance, teaching adult learners, and workload/time management. Things are pretty tight and there’s not a lot of room to wiggle. It’s difficult to keep on track.

Because the course starts Monday morning, the facilitators and participants must travel in overtime (something management frowns on), and the facilitators can’t get into the room until the first morning of training. I prefer to prepare as much as possible in advance and to keep activities queued up and flowing well. Having an hour or an hour and a half for set up would be demanding. It also means that I’d have to come in earlier and stay later each day to stay on top of activities and exercises.

2. The course is something that every new BEA should attendClass2

And, the sooner the better.

Many of the attendees of this course had been BEAs for years and had had the course on their performance and learning agreements for years as well.

As a result, we had a lot of great discussion about our quality control processes, technology, communications, and training. I don’t know that a class of entirely new BEAs would have been half so dynamic.

We also had a varied group of participants from different business lines. One of the big questions I had when I started out as a BEA was what other BEAs elsewhere in our organization did and how those duties compared to my own.

Even though I knew there was a BEA course, it was being redesigned when I started as a BEA and was only piloted to select groups of participants in the next couple of years.

In the positions I’d held previously, there was training, weeks of it. Plus post-training monitoring. I learned the role of advisor by doing it, which is fine because it works with my learning gestalt, but I’m sure for others it was a bit of a culture shock.

After the BEA level, most of the training is piecemeal and you have to actively pursue those courses if you want to take them. Task or competency-based training is not mandatory once you’re out of production.

3. The BEAs in attendance thought the course had value for them

Class3This was a concern, because, after one of my colleagues attended a pilot of the course years ago, she did not have many positive things to say about it.

The BEA Curriculum is a course where you derive benefit proportional to the time and effort you invest.

It’s also one in which the participant should have clearly defined goals and expectations of the training. When the modules of the course that hold the most value for them come up, participants are more likely to play a more active role in their learning.

I presented a short exercise about performance management. I prefaced it with Cathy Moore’s flowchart: Is training really the answer?

Once the advisor has determined that neither training nor monitoring is the answer, what do they do? They perform a needs analysis to identify learning gaps and see if they can devise a plan, working with management, to bring the employee’s behaviour into line with the employer’s expectations.

I asked them to come up with some scenarios from their own experience, and once we had a few, divided them up by business line to review a tool in the training package and see if it would help them in those performance management situations.

Several of the participants told me they thought both the flowchart and the checklist were great resources.

So while the BEA Curriculum was not an unmitigated success (I forgot one of the groups in a breakout room and they didn’t return until after everyone else had left—bad Mellie!) I think it was a good course and one that I’ll enjoy facilitating in the future. If I can remember all the tips and trick I learned this time around!

Do you have any facilitation stories to share? New courses learned or delivered? Lessons learned in the delivery?

Do share.