Sunday, April 11, 2010

Birthmarked Review

Birthmarked - Caragh O'Brien
*March 30th, 2010 Roaring Brook Press

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

Caragh O'Brien's Birthmarked is the best book of 2010 thus far. I've been letting my thoughts sit and simmer for a few days, in the hopes of being able to churn out a more coherent review. Even so, it looks as though this will be a pseudo-review in the style of my review of The Hunger Games from awhile back. Which is oddly fitting, actually. See, I have all my favourite books, in hardcover, placed in a cluster on my bookshelf. Birthmarked is the latest addition amongst the likes of Willow (Julia Hoban), The Hunger Games & Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins).

One of the integral aspects of dystopian lit is world-building. The writer, and in turn the persona, has to be a segway for the readers into a new realm, an introduction to a world so like our own, yet so grotesquely unlike at the same time. Something that's a satirical hyperbole of our society, but at the same time, credible. The world building in Birthmarked is pretty phenomenal. O'Brien's attention to minute detail is what really brings Gaia's world to life. The specific lingo (mabrother, masister, Tvalter, etc.) is unique really shows the development of linguistics since our time. "Unlake Superior" is a clever play-on (and doubly cool because the city I live in is located on Lake Superior's shores). The hats were a great quirk specific to this new, imagined future. And of course - there's the code.

Another aspect that I respect in YA literature is having a strong leading lady. Gaia Stone fulfills that role admirably. There's no damsel-in-distress in Birthmarked, waiting around passively to be rescued. Gaia goes out there, and she gets it done. She brings the action, she forwards the plot, and she makes it happen. Sergeant Grey... hehehe, what can I say? He's pretty dreamy, yeah. :) Probably one of the best boys of YA, and all that jazz, no big deal or anything. (Subliminal message = read Birthmarked!)

I'll admit - I was getting a little worried at the very beginning in regards to Gaia's initial reactions, and it was a little hard to suspend disbelief at that point. But once you get past the beginning exposition (which is kind of inevitable, considering the world-building needed for sci fi - and besides, relatively speaking, that section is quite miniscule), WOW. Just wow. And yeah, there were some plot elements that were a little predicatable, but the plot just worked here. It just meshed with the story, the characters...

One of the other great things about Birthmarked is simply how smart it is. The technology in it, the science behind it... it really adds an extra layer of depth, which is great to see. In case you can't tell from my review thus far - basically, I loved Birthmarked.

These meager words here hardly do Caragh O'Brien's Birthmarked justice. This is one to move to the top of the TBR list, a must-read. A dystopian masterpiece.

Caragh O'Brien | Goodreads | IndieBound

*Luckily, it looks like Birthmarked will have a sequel! Which is awesome, because the ending sets itself up perfectly for more to follow - the story's not over yet :) If you've reviewed/read this, drop me a comment?

**Also - stayed tuned, because we've got an interview
with the formidable Caragh O'Brien coming up in the near future! :)


Morgan said...

I really need to pick up this book, especially when you say it's "one of the best books of 2010 so far". Great review.

Adriana said...

Wonderful review! You described Gaia perfectly as someone who makes things happen which is rare in a lot of books. I can't wait to finish the story. I'll be looking forward to seeing your interview with the author.

Charlotte said...

I had sort of kind of put this on my tbr list--it's on there now! I'm glad its a good one.

Ladybug said...

I love reading novels with a strong leading lady! Excellent review, Birthmarked sounds so so good!

deltay said...

Morgan - Thanks :) Hehe, you should!

Adriana - Yeah, proactive characters are definitely more fun to read about. Thanks :) Interview is up now, too.

Charlotte - I'm glad it's on your tbr list!

Ladybug - Thanks!

Nomes said...

okay, you totally have sold me. I have to read this book.

Fab review, btw :)

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