Blame it on The Hunger Games. Or Fahrenheit 451. Or maybe it’s because I’m a product of my culture. Whatever the case, I truly enjoy dystopian fiction. Although dystopian literature is technically considered a sub-genre of science-fiction, if a dystopian story contains magic or other fantasy elements, it counts as part of the genre. This is the case with The Button Girl, written by Sally Apokedak.
Repentance Atwater, the story's protagonist, is sixteen-years-old. In her community, that means one thing: the Buttoning Ceremony, where she will either find the man she is going to marry, or she will be sold as a slave to the overlord who rules the kingdom. Repentance doesn’t want to marry, but she doesn’t want to bring shame—or worse—to her family. She truly desires to do what’s right, but memories of her past haunt her future, and every decision she makes seems to be the wrong one as the consequences of each choice compound on the others.
Repentance is a headstrong girl with a resolute spirit and a plan... and she will enact that plan no matter who she hurts. Because of this, I had a hard time with this story at the beginning. I understood Repentance's reasoning for her goal, and I certainly related with her stubborn determination, but I was angered by the way she refused to see beyond her nose. However, her growth through that selfishness, learning how actions have consequences that ripple out beyond just ourselves, is one of the main themes of the story. It is what makes The Button Girl an excellent fantasy dystopian novel.
As with the character of Sara in Jim Henson's movie Labyrinth, I was frustrated with Repentance through the first part of the novel. However, I don't like to stop reading a book unless I've finished it, so I kept reading. I am very glad that I did because, again as with Sara in Labyrinth, The Button Girl shows how Repentance grows from a short-sighted girl to a compassionate and generous young woman. By the half-way mark I was totally emotionally invested, and by the end I was an emotional wreck (in the best way possible 😉).