This book is going to make a lot of people angry.
Honestly, that's one of the main reasons I picked it up. Whether I liked it or hated it, I knew just from reading the summary that I was going to have an opinion.
Who Runs the World is set sixty years after a virus killed almost all men, leaving an all-female society. Remaining men live in sanctuaries, where they're protected from the virus. But 14 year old River's life is thrown into chaos when she discovers an injured boy on the road home.
Unsurprisingly, this is a dystopian novel, but it's not typical YA dystopia. Honestly, I wonder if that's why it currently has a 2.9 rating on Goodreads -- it's not a story of a blatantly evil government that can be taken down by some determined teen heroes. The world is the same at the end as at the beginning, and the characters in it at least start the book truly believing in its messages. It's about the protagonist, River, discovering truths, and about us seeing the layers of her world being pulled back piece by piece. Like all good dystopia, it's about questions, not answers. It's about setting up a scenario that makes the reader think, rather than saying "This is the truth. this is how things would be."
The world of the book is, officially, a world without war. A world based on Agreement, where violent crime is rare, everyone has opportunity, and no resource is wasted. This seems to be the first thing about the book that pisses people off -- the suggestion that an all-female society would mean no more violence or war. But first, the book is post-apocalyptic, not a random thought experiment in what an entirely female society would be like in a bubble. It's a thought experiment about how the world would rebuild after literally half of its population dropped dead. And it does raise interesting questions, even if the very existence of those questions might offend people. Women don't commit anywhere near as much violent crime as men. So would they commit more if there were no men, no gender roles, no sexism, or would violent crime become rare? Men are responsible for almost every war in history, but then again, men are the only ones who've been leaders for most of history. So, would a world with female leaders be the same? And if men no longer existed in the world, except as they're remembered by the oldest generation, how would the world talk about them? What would young people associate them with? How would the opinions and instincts of the older generation that survived the apocalypse clash with younger people who've only ever known an all-female society?
And of course, like all dystopia, the world of the book has some serious issues lurking beneath the surface. Injustices and cruelties, political scheming and ambition, complex moral issues with no easy answers. It's not necessarily a book about evil people, but it's a book about the good and evil that people can do.
The writing style itself is probably going to be another sticking point for people, although I enjoyed it. It reminded me of How I Live Now, in the way it captures the immediacy of thoughts, and the inexperience of the protagonist's voice, but it's prose that's written to be immersive, not beautiful.
If people see this book it as some sort of feminist tract, a "look, this is what an all female world would be, look how terrible men are!" book, then they're going to despise it. But as a thought experiment, I think it's a good one. It explores issues of feminism and gender, but the book's goal seems to be getting readers to think about various concepts and issues, rather than telling them what to think. Taken from that perspective, it's a fascinating book about gender, whether or not you agree with its suppositions.