The Hunger Games Trilogy, so I decided to give Caragh M. O'Brien's debut Birthmarked a try. Not only did I satisfy my craving for a young adult book with a powerful female lead in her fight to save her family against strict government, but I also found a novel that was really well done, and certainly more than just another author hopping on the popularity train.
Birthmarked takes place after climate change has left the world destroyed and two groups of humans living either inside or outside of a wall on the north shore of Unlake Superior. For those inside the wall, life is good, while those on the outside are poor and undesirable. Scarred since childhood Gaia Stone is definitely one of the outsiders, and along with her mother, she works as midwife where her job includes "advances" a certain number of infants inside the wall each month in order to meet a quota. However when Gaia's parents are arrested and she is forced to take over her mother's responsibility she finds her questioning the system as travels inside the wall in an attempt to save her parents. When she is arrested and imprisoned Gaia is forced to draw on strength she didn't know she had as Birthmarked offers some powerful warnings about what our future made hold.
One of the things I loved about Birthmarked was that Gaia wasn't picture perfect beautiful, and that she was strong despite that, not defined by her disfigurement or exempt from normal teenage troubles like thinking about a boy and trying to fit in. Also, with so many love triangles in current YA literature including The Hunger Games it was pretty refreshing to read a book where not only is romance not the main concern, but when the subplot is introduced the girl is only interested in one guy. I admit I did find the actual stuff about the code a little silly and predictable in how it was unraveled, I was hoping for something a little more comple, but it is also not why I was reading the book and I'm happy that O'Brien is a better writer than cryptographer which is something I can't say for Dan Brown.
Writing this review a month and a half after I first read the book, it has managed to stay with me. Certain flaws have also become evident, it was definitely predictable at times and the ending is clearly meant to lead into the sequel, but Birthmarked was also a definite page-turner based on a well-realized premise and a plot that keeps the reader enthralled. Birthmarked is a fantastic beginning to another new dystopian trilogy and it is certainly one I recommend picking up- I'm already looking forward to the sequel Prized expected to be released in 2011. ****
Number of Pages: 362 pages
Published: March 2010