Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Birthmarked Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gaia’s mother served the Enclave as a midwife, advancing three babies per month into the Enclave, forever separating them from their biological parents. Until one evening when she and Gaia’s father were arrested by guards of the Enclave. Gaia comes home that night after serving as a midwife and delivering her first baby to the Enclave, to discover her parents gone and an Enclave soldier waiting in her house. After questioning her about her mother and records her mother supposedly kept, he leaves, but her parents don’t return. Gaia has always served the Enclave well, but now she must risk everything to set her parents free. Little does she know...the Enclave is waiting.

I will admit to some difficulty writing about this book because my feelings are mixed. On a quality level this book is exceptional, but on a personal level I found this book a bit hard for me to get into. For some reason, it just wasn’t holding my interest in the beginning. After I got past the beginning and began to progress through the book, my interest grew and as I approached the end I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

I am glad that I endured, and finally finished Birthmarked because it is worth every effort. This book is dystopian fiction at its best. Gaia lives in a world where the poor live outside the wall and are subject to the laws and governance of the rich inside. Outside there a people who struggle to survive, and parents who must give up their newborns. Inside there are wealthy who want for nothing and raise children not their own. The poor don’t rebel because their own children live inside the Enclave, and some of their children serve in the Enclave guard.

O’Brien’s characterizations were excellent. Gaia is a well developed and likable character and you want to cry with her, when things go wrong. Gaia, who is scarred, is considered a “freak” both inside and outside the walls of the Enclave. According to them she is a girl who should be pitied because she is not perfect, but Gaia’s strength is that she is determined not to let her deformity hinder her. The other character who features heavily in this novel is Leon, who you don’t know quite as well and have doubt as to whether you can trust him. He too is an intriguing character. In Gaia’s world people aren’t always what they appear to be, and you don’t know who you can really trust.

In the end I would have to say that I liked this book. It was unpredictable both in vocabulary and in plotting events. You never knew where it was going to take you. Even at the end when I thought I knew the characters and could predict what they would do next, it never failed to take me by surprise.

Overall I would recommend this book to those who like dystopian fiction as a possible must read.

Cautions for sensitive readers: There is some violence in this book, but no language or sex. There are a couple of mildly bloody scenes when Gaia delivers babies.

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