Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien (Book It Forward Tours)

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (March 30, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1596435690
ISBN-13: 978-1596435698

 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.


Being a loyal midwife to the walled city known as the Enclave is all Gaia has ever known. Following in her mother's footsteps of fulfilling the quota of delivering three babies per month, Birthmarked opens with Gaia's first unassisted delivery. Gaia has always believed the Enclave to be a dream place and feels satisfied to serve it. When Gaia goes home to find that both of her parents have been arrested in question of a secret baby record, a record that Gaia is clueless about, she soon too is questioned and imprisoned. Through frightening twists and stumbling turns in her plan to escape and free her parents, Gaia must make adjustments here and there that accommodate bizarre encounters.

I want to believe that Birthmarked was epic in a dystopian perspective, but for me it was just sad. Don't get me wrong, it isn't without it's merits but at different points in time I really thought that Gaia was stupid. I blame this in part because of the secrets her parents hid from her. Now, I don't really find when the main character has some mystery to solve and secrets to uncover a bad quality in the book--it really just makes it more intriguing, to say the least--but the way Gaia is kept so out of the lope (and is constantly reminded of it) is unsettling. There were some dull spots where inaction was frequent. The parts that I really liked and admired were the intricacy laid into the importance of the "advanced" individuals in the Enclave, and how brave Gaia was to go through it all and not think about giving up with all those obstacles thrown at her. I just wasn't pleased with the over-the-top descriptions about every other thing that happened to her. At first I really didn't think I was going to have a favorite character, but after learning more and more about Sergeant Grey/Leon's identity, I found out the motives for his actions and underlying pain he hides about his adoptive family. His interaction with Gaia is rocky at first, but by the end your pleading that he stays by her side. Now that I mention it, the ending itself was sad and dissatisfying.

Grade: C