Outlawed is an alternate history in which a Great Flu wiped out 9/10ths of the U.S. population, the country fell apart, and now a woman who can’t pop out babies to rebuild that population is branded a witch and hanged. As a barren woman myself, this premise hit incredibly close to home for me. I loved seeing how all of these women dealt with such superstition and blatant inequality.
“People cry witchcraft whenever they don’t understand something.”
I’ve seen reviews calling this book a mix of The Crucible and True Grit, or The Handmaid’s Tale and the Netflix show Godless. Both are incredibly apt, and I felt all four of those inspirations in this story. But what I ended up being reminded of the most was the movie Young Guns. Likely this was largely a mix of nostalgia, having adored that movie in my childhood, and the fact that one of the most important characters in this book was known solely by the moniker “The Kid.” Whatever the case may be, that similarity imparted a fun walk down memory lane for me, which did nothing but increase my enjoyment while reading.
“Knowledge can be very valuable… but only if people want it. If they don’t, it can be worse than useless.”
Our main character, Ada, was interesting. She’s incredibly book-smart, and has a lot of practical medical knowledge, but she’s not exactly gifted in the common sense department. She makes plenty of mistakes, but overall I found her an easy protagonist to root for. The rest of the characters surrounding her were fun and multifaceted, and I very much enjoyed getting their backstories.
“When someone believes in something… you can’t just take it away. You have to give them something to replace it.”
I think my main complaint about Outlawed is that it’s one of those rare novels that feels too short. I feel like another fifty to hundred pages could have bumped this up from four stars to five in my book. But regardless, this is an incredibly fun story with plenty of depth and drama. There’s a ton of commentary and questions regarding identity and sexuality that I found to be great food for thought. Overall, I highly recommend this book for those looking for girl power in an unusual setting.