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The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power

by Naomi Alderman

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Quick take

"I felt the electricity running through my arms, I imagined how I could harness it."


In The Power, the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power—they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, The Power is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways.

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The Power
The men lock Roxy in the cupboard when they do it. What they don't know is: she's been locked in that cupboard before. When she's naughty, her mum puts her there. Just for a few minutes. Till she calms down. Slowly, over the hours in there, she's worked the lock loose with a fingernail or a paperclip in the screws. She could have taken the lock off at any time she wanted. But she didn't, cause then her mum would have put a bolt on the outside. It's enough for her to know, sitting there in the dark, that if she really wanted to she could get out. The knowledge is as good as freedom. So that why they think they've locked her in, safe and sound. But she still gets out. That's how she sees it. The men come at nine thirty in the evening. Roxy was supposed to have gone over to her cousins' that night; it had been arranged for weeks, but she'd given her mum lip about not getting her the right tights from Primark, so her mum said, "You're not going, you're staying in." Like Roxy cared a pox about going to her poxy cousins', anyway. When the blokes kick in the door and see her there, sulking on the sofa next to her mum, one of them goes, "Fuck, the girl's here." There are two men, one taller with a face like a rat, the other shorter, square-jawed. She doesn't know them. The short one grabs her mum by the throat; the tall one chases Roxy through the kitchen. She's almost out the back door when he grabs her thigh; she falls forward and he's got her by the waist. She's kicking and shouting, "Fuck off, let me go!" and when he puts a hand over her mouth she bites him so hard she tastes blood. He swears, but doesn't drop her. He carries her through the living room. The short one's pushed her mum up against the fireplace. Roxy feels it start to build in her then, though she doesn't know what it is. It's just a feeling at her fingers' ends, a prickle in her thumbs.

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Why I love it

The Power has a simple premise: young girls around the world suddenly realize that they have the ability to send electric currents through their fingers, jolts that can injure or even kill others. Soon it is revealed that all women have this power—they just have to harness it. As power literally shifts from the hands of men to the hands of women, power structures around the world are threatened and the world become a dangerous and unstable place. We follow three women and one man as they make their way through this new world.

In Alderman’s hands, this world seems both strangely familiar and totally alien. In fact, I was struck by how many times I forgot I was reading a work of fiction. Thinking about the men’s rights activist of our real world, versus the men’s rights activist of this parallel world where a matriarchy is threatening to take hold, I felt the electricity running through my arms, I imagined how I could harness it. I wanted to believe this power was really there all along, and that after I finished reading the book I would be able to shock the world around me. What if I could go anywhere I wanted? What if I never felt fear? I know that what ifs are pointless and yet—how sweet that vision of paradise seemed.

In the hands of another writer, this story could’ve become another empowerment cliché full of empty platitudes, and faux feminism. But it was Alderman who created this world, and her vision has endless depth. I devoured this book in a couple of days, and every time I turned the page was a bittersweet moment: I was so completely invested in the story but I knew the sooner I got ahead, the sooner the whole thing would be over. I did not want this book to be over. I did not want to go back to my world, where there aren’t any what ifs to help me escape reality. Where everything is what it is.

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Member ratings (4,853)

  • Amanda H.

    Daphne, AL

    The Power is just incredible. The subdle and screaming differences between our world and the one in this book were cleverly and heart wrenchingly relatable for anyone that's ever been seen as “weak”.

  • Hannah J.

    Portland, OR

    I don’t know what’s between “like” and “love” option, but that was what this book was to me. I enjoyed how dark and twisted it got. Sometimes, I wanted to “look away”, but I just couldn’t. 😅

  • Laura D.

    Eureka, MT

    This was an interesting twist on women’s empowerment, strong roots, and shining light on repression both currently and since the beginning of time. Easy read but it’ll also make you think. Wonderful.

  • Kristen S.

    Brooklyn, NY

    This story isnt just about feminism as I’d assumed. It’s about human nature. Even though rooted in a sci-fi concept, it serves as an inspiration to find your real inner strength - your own super power

  • Michelle T.

    Sioux Falls, SD

    This book took me through twists & turns I wasn’t ready for up to the very end & I had to take some time to see how I felt about it. It doesn’t shy away from the bad, it hits you with it & I loved it.

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