Friday, September 24, 2010

Birthmarked, Caragh M. O'Brien

I keep reading dystopian novels, and then being like "Agh this is so depressing!" and then rolling my eyes at my self and saying, "Self, if you don't like being depressed, WHY DO YOU KEEP READING DYSTOPIAN NOVELS?"
And then my Self says: "Well, gosh, I don't really REALIZE that it's dystopian until I start reading it! And then it's too late!"
And then I say to my self, "Self, TOUGH IT OUT."
So I do. Er, my self does.

Have a Goodreads summary:
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.

My Review:

I loved the romance in this book. Loved, loved LOVED. Okay? Okay. I also loved that it wasn't 100% obvious who the love interest was, at least at first. I was suspicious but NOT CERTAIN. Which I always enjoy, as opposed to meeting a new character who is pretty much wearing a neon sign saying "I exist to provide drama, angst, and love to the FMC!" And you're like okay.
And then they're so CUTE about it. They're all like...ridiculous. I'm going to resort to quoting from Snazel's review, because she is SO RIGHT:
"I really liked the characters here. They weren't the kind who start shouting about their emotions all over the page, which I have heard people complain about, because "you never get to know the characters," but I like it. I mean, how often in real life are we privy to people confessing exactly how that makes them feel in the middle of extensive trauma?"
(Btw visit Snazel's blog cuz she's awesome and reviews way more often than I do)
Back to Birthmarked. The plot is pretty classic dystopian YA: US has been pretty much leveled from some past event, most likely nuclear, and humans are scattered and just trying to survive, so the people with the bigger sticks end up being able to control and extort resources from the people with no sticks. Then, the MC starts realizing what's going on and is like Hey now don't be crazy.
The cool thing about this plot is that it's all about BABIES. I really liked Gaia's job. I liked seeing each birth that she helps with, and how each is different and how awesome and knowledgeable she is about birthing, even though she's so young. At one point I was thinking, "Aw, I want another birth scene!" Which...I don't normally think whilst reading.
Also did I mention the romance is awesome? Yes, yes I did.
I also liked the usefulness of all the characters, if you know what I mean. They all had very specific uses in the plot, the story, the world, or whatever...We LEARNED something from each character, none of them felt redundant. Even her parents were essential, who were not usually "on screen."
There are many mysteries in this book too, like what the Dead Forest is/does it actually exist, what is with the records and why is everyone so uptight about it, who are Gaia's brothers, why do people keep telling Gaia to go visit her dead grandmother, etc. Some mysteries are answered, some are not. Some I really wanted to be DISCUSSED at least, because I had major theories about them, but Gaia's just like "argh I don't get it" and that's all we get. So that was a little frustrating, but there IS a sequel coming, so as long as things are eventually answered, I'll be okay.
Okay so on to my major complaint about the book. Gaia, despite her incredible resourcefulness and bravery and all, isn't very...clever. The WHOLE mystery with the records, I was just like..."Duh." So when she finally figured it out, and was all like "OO MAJOR LIGHTBULB THIS IS INCREDIBLE" I was extremely underwhelmed. Also, I wanted her to THINK about her grandmother's name. JUST ONE MOMENT OF REFLECTION. And she never did. And I was Come on. I don't know if the author thinks we're dumber than we are, or if it's just the way she's writing Gaia, but it could be very frustrating at times.
Soooo in conclusion...I have no conclusion! This was a well-plotted, well-characterized read, a little slow at points, but satisfying and still leaving you wanting more. Clever plot twists need not apply.

Recommended for: dystopian lovers, baby-lovers, people who like romance that doesn't involve a vat of hormones.
Rated: 4/5 stars.
Notes: I really like black uniforms.

1 comment:

Lydia said...

This is cool! I"m always on the lookout for dystopian novels so I'll definitely check it out.