Book Review: Upright Women Wanted, by Sarah Gailey

Speculative fiction! Queer Librarians being subversive and fighting the State! Patriarchy be damned!

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her — a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.


Right off the bat, I want to say that before I got my hands on this book, I thought it was a full-length novel. I don’t know why I assumed that, but I did. And so I was already a little disappointed when I found out it’s a novella. Not that I don’t like novellas, but it’s kind of like when you take a drink of something, fully expecting to taste what you think the drink is, and it ends up being something totally different when it hits your tongue…gag-worthy (even if you like whatever it actually is) and pretty disappointing. I do NOT think this book is gag-worthy (heh), but the disappointment was strong. It’s my fault for making an assumption in the first place, but still.

So that *might* have affected how I felt about the book from the very beginning, and it *might* have created a weird filter over my reading of it. (Being a psych major, I am constantly aware of things like this.)

Anyway, here’s the review…

In the future of Upright Women Wanted, the U.S. has fallen back into the circumstances of the Old West. It has become a totalitarian Old West where the State runs everything and disseminates tons of propaganda. Everything is really uptight again, and punishments are archaic.

Librarians go from town to town, delivering the State’s propaganda and other State-approved materials.

But of course, this isn’t the only thing Librarians deliver, because just like in our times, libraries and Librarians are the last bastions of true democracy.

Esther hides in one of the Librarian wagons for the reasons already stated in the summary above, and this leads to an adventure that she never thought she’d find herself on.

Esther learns to be comfortable with who she is and learns that she is much tougher than she thought.

Upright Women Wanted is about doing the right thing even when it’s dangerous, and being proud of who you are in the face of adversity. It’s about rising up (even if it’s in secret) against the powers that be when those powers are doing more harm than good. It’s about finding your people and feeling at home — both in your own body and in your environment.

It’s a great story.

Oh, but I wanted more. So much more. I wanted this to be a longer story. I want background and character history and worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong, as a novella, Upright Women Wanted works very well and I was duly invested, but the story almost has to move too quickly and I’ll say it again: I. Just. Want. More.

But that can be a sign of a good story (wanting more), and that’s totally what it is in this case. I was teased by this novella and I really want a full-length novel about this world and these characters. Sigh.

So I definitely recommend Upright Women Wanted if it sounds like your kind of thing, but know that you get only 173 pages of awesomeness when it could have easily been 300(+) pages of awesomeness.