Rating: 4.5 rounded up.
Written in the early '90s and taking place in the near future of the 2020s, this was a thought-provoking take on a post-apocalyptic America. If The Walking Dead universe still had a functional federal government. Everyone except the wealthy is basically poor and starving. Rapists, gangs, and drug addicts wreak havoc, burning down homes and forcing people to barricade their neighborhoods, and never leave. But taxes, the police, and college degrees still exist. I guess it's not a completely farfetched reality, it just left me with questions about things that seemed to make no real sense. But none of those things took away from the story.
We follow Lauren Olamina, a young girl who, like most teen girls, has so many thoughts and opinions but feels like no one will listen to her. She has given up on religion and creates her own, Earthseed. The belief that God is change. I'll admit that I was on board with this idea, and curious about where Lauren would go with it. But as the story moves on, Earthseed begins to feel more like a cult than a religion. Which I guess is one of the many points Octavia was making with this story. After Lauren's community is overrun and burned down, she and others flee to make a new life up north and meet others along the way. Your typical formula for the post-apocalypse. I did find the first half of the book better than the second. I liked learning about Lauren's family, the community, and establishing the characters and the world around them. The survival aspect of the story is what drew me in. But after that, it dragged a bit, as the character just walked along highways, made camps to spend the night, avoided crazies, and made friends along the way.
This leads me to my reason for knocking off half a star. Along the way, 18-year-old Lauren meets a man who is almost 60, and develops a romantic relationship with him. Their sexual relationship was disgusting, and I've noticed that Octavia had a thing for young women having relationships with older men. I nearly DNF'd Fledgling for this reason. (go look for yourself, just gross.)
There was also Lauren's hyperempathy, where she could feel the pain and pleasure of those near her. You would think something like this would be essential to the story or her character development, but it wasn't, and ultimately could've been cut out. I always forgot about it until it was mentioned. At the end of the day, I enjoy Ms. Butler's sci-fi, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, although my expectations are somewhere in the middle.
You can find it here on amazon, Scrib'd or at your local online library.