Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

5 Star

Hazel Hayes is a grad student living in New York City. As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant (from an affair with her married professor) at an apocalyptically bad time: random but deadly attacks on passers-by, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers. Soon it becomes clear that the attacks are symptoms of a strange illness that is transforming blondes--whether CEOs, flight attendants, skateboarders or accountants--into rabid killers.

Hazel, vulnerable because of her pregnancy, decides to flee the city--but finds that the epidemic has spread and that the world outside New York is even stranger than she imagined. She sets out on a trip across a paralyzed America to find the one woman--perhaps blonde, perhaps not--who might be able to help her. 

Lydia - 5 Star

I loved this novel. With a unique premise – blondes becoming rapid killers (think zombies, but exchange the ugly for beautiful blondes) - and fabulous social commentary (think The Handmaid’s Tale), The Blondes is an absorbing read.

Hazel Hayes is an ordinary girl who moves from Toronto to New York City to finish her thesis on women and vanity when she finds herself pregnant just as the world becomes consumed with hysterical, raging blondes wreaking havoc and attacking people. Anyone living in Toronto during SARS or the Bird Flu scare or anywhere during a potential pandemic will understand the fear, the unknown and the desperation portrayed in this novel. The Blondes takes it a step further by exploring an illness that affects only women, particularly blondes, both natural and bleached, and how the rest of the world, from brunettes to men, react to them, their vanity at having to shave their heads, and the discrimination, the persecution, and the indignities they are treated to.

Told from the point of view of Hazel Hayes, whose pregnancy was unplanned, she gradually tells her unborn baby about how the events unfolded to get them to the cabin they were hunkered down in. Hazel starts her story at the cabin and then would skip back to various points in time from how the infections began, to how she met the baby’s father and moved to New York and other times in her past. However, at no time was I confused or thought this detracted from the story. It was masterfully done. I zipped through pages to see whether she would make it out of the cabin and was equally fascinated by how the infection started, spread and the reaction to it as well as the dysfunctional relationship she had with the baby’s father.

I loved that I learned things with this novel, from Mayer of MGM studio’s hometown in Canada to the genetic facts of how a calico cat is created. And that this novel made me think, from our vanity to the niceties people show pregnant women they would never otherwise glance twice at and the irrationality or compassion people show in the face of the unknown.

I visited New York City recently and with Manhattan firmly imprinted in my mind now, I loved that half of this novel takes place in the streets I recently roamed, and the other half was unabashedly Canadian and depicted areas of the city I live in as well as other Canadian-isms (Tim Horton’s anyone?) that I absolutely loved.

There were pages of The Blondes that I whipped through as well as sections I reread to digest the meaning and subtext. Emily Schultz is definitely one to watch. I can’t wait to read more of her work!

Thank you to DoubleDay Canada for our review copy! All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Emily Schultz here:

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