**I received an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review** I was completely entranced by the cover, which is breathtakingly gorgeous. (I mean, seriously; is this not the most gorgeous freaking cover you have ever seen??)
What waits behind the cover is also art: dark, disturbing and beautiful all at once. L.M. Pierce has created a dystopian future that's not terribly hard to imagine in our current climate, but the immersion goes far beyond your usual fare. This book is not an easy read- it took me a while to acclimate to the thick dialect of Andi, the narrator of this tale. It relaxes and becomes a little easier about a third of the way in, or I just mastered the nuance of language. The story told through Andi's eyes is gritty, obscene, exciting, and thoroughly engaging. In the shadows of the Wall surrounding the United Free States, increasing numbers of people are born intersex, with both male and female genitalia. Those who refuse or never undergo surgical assignment of gender are known as Transgressors, second class citizens fighting and clawing for survival with other persona non grata the Society deems undesirable. Andi is an addict and a thief, but harbors a burning defiance to be who she is and not who Society thinks she should be. A resistance movement led by Andi's friend Elenbar, known as the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade - the Brigade for short- sows the seeds of rebellion throughout the slums while the Transgressors evade the authorities in order to avoid getting "snipped". But something bigger than Andi- or even Elenbar- realizes is building in the UFS, and the Brigade has gotten the attention of Society in the worst kind of way. Andi and Elenbar risk the loss of their self-identity, their freedom, and their lives for a chance to get to the rumored freedom outside the Wall. This story has a vibe that makes me think a little bit Handmaid's Tale, a little bit Les Miserables, and some 1984. I loved Andi's character, flawed and struggling and in way over her head. The book's strongest point, its immersive quality into this grim future, is also a point of concern for me. People need to read this book, and it took a long time to warm up to the slang terms and Andi's jagged flow of dialogue. It might put some readers off--and if they give up, they will miss an otherwise masterful job of storytelling and literary art. The story ends on an uncertain if hopeful note, and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for the next chapter.