Turning on the Girls
Cheryl Benard
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Buy *Turning on the Girls* online Turning on the Girls

Cheryl Benard
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
312 pages
January 2001
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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What would happen if women ruled all aspects of society? How would the male population react to such a drastic passing of the torch? And, most importantly, what should women’s sexual fantasies look like in this New Order? Those are the questions posed by Cheryl Benard in her wickedly adventurous second novel, Turning On The Girls.

Curled Up With a Good BookTwenty-three year old Lisa, a child when the revolution happened, is now firmly ensconced in the New Order. Employed by the Ministry of Thought (Department of Values and Fantasies, Subdepartment of Dreams), Lisa struggles with an enormous task: specifically, she needs to “collect material for a program to eradicate women’s romantic and masochistic fantasies and replace them with more appropriate images.” Or, in simpler terms, “it has to turn you on but not be sick."

To assist her in accomplishing this task, Lisa takes on an assistant, Justin. Justin takes the position as one of the final requirements of his social reeducation process. Once Justin has earned five certificates, of which he already has four, he will be able to attain full citizenship, at which point he’ll be able to move out of the male housing unit, find a job, and begin to look for a mate, something he desperately wants.

Lisa and Justin move towards the accomplishment of their mission by plodding through the Ministry’s library of banned novels, including The Story of O and Crystal Hearts. Getting nowhere after weeks of research, Lisa – unable to comprehend the sexual attraction of the encounters detailed in her research – attempts to resign her position. Nadine, Lisa’s supervisor, takes the opportunity to recruit Lisa for an even more important mission - to become an undercover spy for the Ministry.

Because, even in the New Order, things are not as idyllic as they seem. Nadine is with a security segment of the Ministry. When the Ministry learns that the rebels are planning an attack against the New Order, they need an inside person to obtain the details. They also know that one of Lisa’s co-workers is involved with the rebels. Nadine has not been able to gain the coworker’s confidence. Perhaps Lisa could.

Lisa is able to successfully gain access to the group. However, she soon discovers that the group is “men or couples only;" if Lisa doe not bring a man to the group with her, she will be partnered with a male member of the group. Not wanting a rebel partner to impede her investigation into the group’s activities, Lisa asks Justin to assist her. Needing his fifth certificate, Justin agrees.

Lisa and Justin are finally accepted into the core of the group – right when they are attempting their coup. They are taken to Zone Six – the area where rebel men are imprisoned – and soon discovered as spies. Zone Six security has been deactivated, and hundreds of men have gathered in preparation for their revolution. What transpires next involves a series of unexpected (but believable) surprises, including escapes, rescues, sacrifices, and compromises. And, just possibly, Lisa may discover what sexual passion is all about.

© 2001 by Linda Dunham for Curled Up With a Good Book

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