A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Like Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, The Testaments makes readers think about women's rights and roles in society. In Gilead, the country where The Testaments takes place, women's and girls' independence and education are sacrificed in the name of "protecting" them and perpetuating the species.
Women and girls have the power to change their lives, but they face real dangers and oppression.
Positive Role Models
Nicole is courageous, even while she faces loss, illness, and the threat of violence. Agnes also is brave in defying the doctrine in which she was raised. Lydia is pragmatic but willing to give her own life to expose the cruelty and corruption in her country.
Violence & Scariness
The Testaments is full of the threat of violence as well as some actual violence. People of Gilead may be hung, shot, or poisoned if they are considered disobedient or simply expendable. Citizens may also be subject to "Particicution," where an offender is literally torn apart by Handmaids. Specific violent events include a very bloody C-section; a car bombing; and a dream where numerous people are shot and killed. People talk about rape in the novel, and young women are molested by a dentist. One graphic description of a patient molested in the dentist's chair. The dentist also abused one of the women when she was a 4-year-old girl.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Girls are taught never to reveal any parts of their bodies (not to swing in the park, for example) so as not to "entice" men or "inflame their urges." They are taught to fear men, and fear sex.
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The words "f--k" and "s--t" are used more than a dozen times each in the novel. "Piss" is used literally.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters talk about men drinking wine, and about homeless people being criminals who drink and deal and use drugs. Tranquilizers are used to subdue reluctant brides.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is the sequel to her bestselling dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, which was also adapted for the 1990 film and the Hulu television series of the same name. The Testaments picks up more than a decade after the end of The Handmaid's Tale, and answers some of the questions the reader was left with at the end of the original novel. Like The Handmaid's Tale, The Testaments mainly takes place in the fictional Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States of America), where roles for women and men are strictly prescribed, and divided by gender and caste. A girl's education is extremely limited, and her future is determined by the status of her parents. In the novel, women and girls wear garments that reflect their roles, and they are forbidden from "enticing" men. Anyone whose behavior breaks Gilead's strict rules of conduct may be shot, hung, or subject to a Particicution, in which the offender is literally torn apart. Violence includes a car bombing, a gorey Caesarian section, and the sexual molestation of a young woman by her dentist, which is graphically described. The threat of violence is always present for Atwood's characters, as girls are raised to fear being raped if they reveal any part of themselves to a man. Strong language is frequent ("f--k" and "s--t"), and there are mentions people drinking and dealing and using drugs, but none of those behaviors is presented graphically. The disturbing nature of The Testaments lies in the oppressive, corrupt world that Atwood creates.
Is It Any Good?
This chilling sequel about a dystopian society that oppresses women and girls is a page turner that's a worthy followup to the original novel. To readers who have read The Handmaid's Tale, or watched the film or award-winning Hulu TV series, the world of Gilead will be a known quantity, so The Testaments may not have the same shock value that its precursor did when it was new. However, this book may be even more engaging for teen readers, as two of the main characters are young adults. And it will make teens think about issues affecting women and gender roles. Author Margaret Atwood is brilliant at creating her complex, threatening, dystopian world, while still grounding her characters in the most essential values of family and freedom.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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