Reviewed by Robinne Weiss.
Andy wants nothing more than to be an engineer. Unfortunately in this version of the future, men aren’t allowed to study engineering … or anything else. When he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Olivia Lim, daughter of the ruler of Meliora, he finds an ally willing to break the law to help him.
As Andy learns there are other men like him who want the opportunities open to women, he broadens his dreams to encompass equality for all genders. Can he convince his prejudiced and privileged friend Olivia to support his cause, or will her position and her own dreams cause her to reject him?
In the style of The Lunar Chronicles and A Face Like Glass, The 716 twists real-life society in order to illuminate and examine prejudice and injustice. Though there are many examples of the swapped gender roles trope in modern literature, Sarah Pratt’s approach is intriguing, in that the book alludes to the justification for the removal of men from roles of power in society. I liked the fact that there was some thought given to how this fictional society ended up in its unbalanced state. The inclusion of New Zealand landmarks also provides a sense of history to the story, lending credibility to the implied backstory.
I appreciate how the characters’ personal journeys come in fits and starts as they confront and ultimately overcome their own prejudices, and I appreciate that all the characters have prejudices and misconceptions to address—even the downtrodden men.
The book’s social messages come through loud and clear. For my adult tastes, the drumming of the message was a bit heavy handed, but I have no doubt that the YA audience at which the book is aimed will absolutely love it. The engaging characters and intriguing world will draw readers in, and the social message is an important one.