This is a review of Welcome to OrphanCorp by Marlee Jane Ward. This short novella brims with tension, pain, acidity, and just a little hope. Telling the story of Miriiyanan Mahoney, this novella speak to truths about systems and offers a warning just as relevant today as 4 years ago when it hit the market.
In the bleak future of this short novel, corporations have taken charge of orphanages. And let me tell you, they do not treat their charges well at all. In many ways, this novel acts as what could be a precursor to something like the Handmai’s Tale. Only instead of religious fundamentalists taking over, it was the oligarchy.Ward never explains how the world of Welcome to OrphanCorp came to pass, and for the purposes of this review it doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s not too hard to imagine something like this happening in today’s world.
All you have to do is look at the private prison system, and how private corporations are responsible for the mess along the US border. Those are real places, and this is fiction, but so often those lines blur.
Welcome to OrphanCorp Presents Freedom as the Lesser Evil
Mirii is a hard case. She’s got a smart mouth and a quick mind. She has been in the system for a long time and is a week from release. What happens when she gets released? Well, she gets to be free on the outside, but that is terrible as well. The world outside of the corporate orphanage has gone to hell, but at least she’ll be free. But what does that mean? She doesn’t have a family, or a job, or even a place to live. The prospect of leaving the orphanage is compelling, but it’s also a bit like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Inside, the kids do whatever they can to remain sane. This includes cuddle parties, sex, and going on missions. The latter is where trouble really happens, as these missions are illegal. Whether it’s just sneaking out to explore the grounds or to steal some drugs from the pharmacy, missions are bad news if you get caught.
Laughs in the Face of Corporate Inhumanity
One thing that really struck me about this novella is the humor. Sure, the book is terrifying and tragic. And yes, it presents a world full of pain and anger and anguish. It’s hard reading about kids in pain, even if they are fictional. But, Mirii is so acerbic and clever that we can’t help laugh with her. She puts on a tough facade, and humor is part of her armor. Of course, she is not as tough as she appears, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when the times she falls apart.
Another thing I appreciated about this novel was the world building. In a short amount of time, readers understand this strange and frightening world. The adults at the orphanage are called Aunts and Uncles, clearly a perversion of family. When the orphans get in trouble, they have to face the Consequences and go in Time Out rooms. Both of these are awful punishments, but their names make them sound innocuous. It’s a great bit of contrast between the expectation of what those words mean, and the reality of the novel.
Overall, I recommend reading this book. It’s short and well written. The world and characters spring to life on the page, and the tension is palpable. This might be a young adult novel, but it is suitable for anyone interested in corporate over reach, finding hope in the darkness, and good stories.
Thank you fro reading my review of Welcome to OrphanCorp. If you’ve read this book, join me in the discussion in the comments. And if you haven’t, you should.