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Reviewed by Kyra Johnson
Opening sentence
Thoughtful science fiction that turns things upside down, reviewed by Kyra Johnson
November 29, 2022

I was instantly captivated by The 716 upon reading the blurb. It is the first book in S.J. Pratt’s new series, set in the promising and futuristic world of Meliora. In this society, men are second-class citizens and are only permitted to do jobs like being a waiter or house-husband. The women, on the other hand, can do anything they want. The two main characters, Andy and Olivia, both want to become something not considered acceptable. Andy would love to pursue his engineering dream, but cannot do this because he has a blue Identifeye light - the male symbol. Olivia is the Eldest Daughter of the leader of Meliora, Our Mother, and is destined to become the country’s next leader. She, too, dreams of becoming an engineer, but cannot do so because she is restricted by the inescapable expectations of others, despite being a woman.

When these two people from very different parts of society meet, they dislike each other because they are unconsciously blinded by the ‘correct social norm’ which comes from the color of their Identifeye lights. Andy thinks Olivia is just like any other woman - someone who gets what they want and can do what they like because their Identifeye light is pink. He, on the other hand, cannot because his light is blue. Men are not given equal opportunities, the main being that they are not allowed to take the REAL Test. Women take this test once they reach a certain age, and how they score determines what university they go to. Olivia takes the REAL test and scores highly, but Andy can’t help wondering what it would be like for him - for a man - to take the test. Could he score high enough to get into a university and actually be able to study engineering?

Andy only believed this to be a dream until he met Olivia. Once they got to know each other, they saw a different side of both themselves and each other, revealed when they step beyond the ‘acceptable’ boundaries of their society. They both want to be engineers, but they both can’t be unless they do something to change Meliora. Andy taking the REAL Test is the definite beginning of this. Through the twists and turns of expectations, pressure, betrayal and more, are Andy and Olivia able to find a way to change the world? Or will they crumble? Read the book to find out!

Although the story is written in the third person throughout, the perspective still changes in each chapter to mainly focus on Olivia and Andy. This was particularly helpful since the two characters come from very different parts of society, which ultimately shows the audience the two sides to each of the characters’ stories. The reactions, thoughts, and emotions experienced by the characters during certain events of the story - like when Andy first meets Olivia or they work on a project together - give the audience a deeper understanding of how Meliora society has influenced them.

In the real world, females were historically second-class citizens, not men. Over several decades this has been worked at and challenged so that women can have rights, opportunities, and status equal to that of men. Pratt has reversed this idea so that men are subject to the inequality women experienced years ago and may still experience today. Her story is partially dedicated to ‘...all the brave people who fought and fight for equitable rights’. This is the main message of The 716, hidden behind Andy’s actions to fight for his own, and therefore men’s, rights in a society where there are none.

One of my favorite things about this book was how the author used traditionally feminine phrases originating from the historical female status and flipped them so they referred to the men. This matched the story’s idea well and made the world of Meliora seem so much more real to me. I also liked how Pratt added in little background details about Meliora such as ‘The Wars of Men.’ The way the Spitfire plane that Andy and Olivia are working on is made to seem so historic gives the audience a better understanding of when the story is set. Meliora is clearly dancing in highly-progressive technology, and the front cover shows how futuristic this story is. I loved the way Andy and Olivia, although they come from different backgrounds, have such similar personalities.

This science fiction adventure was definitely a good read. I’d recommend this to anyone 14+ who likes to read about equal rights, fighting for change, the future, and the occasional robot!

- Kyra Johnson lives in Greymouth.
Author & Illustrator: S.J. Pratt
Publisher: Self-published