Spring Reads: Book Five {Birthmarked}

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Yep. Another dystopian young adult novel.

Your point?

Let's all do the right thing in this post and not try to compare it to The Hunger Games okay? Because, like I said in my Divergent post, the similarities end at genre when it comes to most dystopian YA novels anyway. Right?

Anyways, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien is such a fascinating picture of what life could be like in the future. This is a gritty, honest, and different take on the dystopian picture. Full of codes, moral decisions, and jaw-dropping secrets, this book takes you on an emotional roller-coaster in a world that is scarily similar to our own.


On the northern shore of what used to be Lake Superior a new society has set up in the wake of the disastrous effects of climate change. This new society, called the Enclave, is divided only by a tall, solid, and daunting wall. Those inside the wall live in luxury. Outside the wall is another story - families live in impoverished conditions and do the work to keep the society functioning. Running water and electricity, for example, are a rarity and a luxury for those outside the wall, which citizens must save up for extra should they want/need more than their allotted share.

For people like Gaia Stone, a sixteen year old midwife-in-training, living inside the wall is all she has ever known. She was injured badly when she was younger, leaving her face scared. The rules of the Enclave are strange, but they have been that way as long as Gaia can remember. And Gaia follows them because she has always been an obedient citizen. It is Gaia's job to "advance" a set quota of the babies she delivers out of poverty and into the Enclave. This is considered a privilege, as they are spared the life that awaits anyone born outside of the walls. As her mother's assistant, Gaia does this without thinking.

But one night, when Gaia performs her first solo delivery, everything changes.

The young mother begs Gaia not to take her baby away from her. When Gaia returns home she learns that her parents have been taken away. She is now completely and utterly alone.

As Gaia fights to get her parents back she learns just what the Enclave is capable of and the brutal injustice they practice behind the wall. Gaia soon discovers that she alone the key to a secret code that could challenge the injustice of her world.


I enjoyed this book. Quite a bit.

Let's start there.

Yes it's a dystopian novel. Yes it has its flaws. But it's still a good, enjoyable read. And unique, with a new and interesting voice and a new and interesting future world.

The first three babies born to a midwife each month get advanced to the Enclave. Why? Well, we learn that as the book goes on. Everything hinges on that why so I'm not going to spoil it for you. But, can you imagine? Just the unfortunate luck of your baby being one of the first born in a month. Knowing that there is a potential that this baby, this being that you've created and carried for months is no longer yours? That there is a potential that any person is not their own property? It's insane and heartbreaking and cruel. But it is how this world functions. And it's considered a good thing - a chance to escape the poverty and lifestyle of those outside the wall. It's the only opportunity for a better life.

Gaia is an interesting character. She's scarred from a childhood trauma and used to the pity and disgust on people's face when they see her. She's taken to draping her face or wearing hats to hide her distinguishing scars. She's a strong and determined protagonist who, despite her physical appearance, has grown to be kind and compassionate and self reliant. She is so focused on her family and finding out what has happened to her parents that she is willing to do anything to save them.

And Leon? Leon was okay. I wasn't overly impressed by him in the beginning, but he did manage to wiggle his way into my good graces. I just don't think he's that complex of a character. Sure, his characterization and the events in his past make him interesting. But, at a number of places, he just felt flat to me. Like I could predict his every move and know what he was going to do. I like my characters to surprise me. Not to be an open book.

And I, again like in Divergent, am SO GLAD that this story (at present) lacks the ever-present book-selling love triangle. Someday I am going to have to do a post just on how overdone love triangles have become in my eyes. Sigh. But this book? None. One boy interest for the one girl protagonist. Sure, they have their issues. But their romance is sweet and used (like so many dystopian novels) to show the flaws and faults in the present society.

I'm looking forward to reading Prized and seeing where Caragh M. O'Brien goes with this series. It's such an interesting premise for a story and I can only applaud her for her world creating skills. There are places the story lacks and predictability issues. But all in all it was a good, entertaining, and thought provoking read.

Title: Birthmarked (Birthmarked #1)
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Genre: YA: Dystopian; Fantasy
Recommended For: Middle School+; Dystopian YA Lovers;
Medium: Paperback, 384p
Date Read: 15 April 2012
Source: Purchased at B&N

First Line: In the dim hovel, the mother clenched her body into one final, straining push, and the baby slithered out into Gaia's ready hands. 
Favorite Line: There are many ways to be a criminal or a hero. Don't forget that. 


  1. Sounds like a good read! Will need to check it out in the future!

  2. I'm always looking for new books to read. Thanks for the rec!


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