NOTE: This is book 2 in the Birthmarked series, so there are light spoilers for book 1. (read my review of BIRTHMARKED)
After escaping the Enclave with her baby sister, Gaia is rescued from the Wasteland and taken to the settlement of Sylum, a matriarchal dystopia where a kiss is considered attempted rape and men outnumber women 10 to 1. Here, Gaia is confronted with new mysteries – why are hardly any girl babies being born? And why can’t people ever leave Sylum alive?
BIRTHMARKED, with its genetics mystery, introduced a very different type of dystopian society than what we usually see. And even though I thought the big reveal was ultimately kind of disappointing for all the build-up, BIRTHMARKED was a solid read.
I enjoyed PRIZED even more, especially because I was prepared for the mystery to be less sinister here than where my mind naturally went. O’Brien shows us what a society might become where the number of males far exceeds the number of females, but where females are firmly in control. Marriage is sacred, abortion is a crime, and every month there are games to determine which man gets to pick a woman to spend a month with him in a winner’s cabin.
What I especially liked here was the exploration of how living in such a society affected Gaia. Trained as a midwife, Gaia is able to play an essential role for the women, but she quickly butts heads with the leader when she refuses to snitch on someone for breaking a law. Also, Gaia is at a loss when confronted with her sudden popularity among men and becomes entangled in a love quadrangle. Because men and women don’t touch here, the barest brush of a knuckle can send hearts racing, so Gaia has to look beyond chemistry to really figure out who she wants to be with.
There are no simple answers here, no clear villains, no 100% clear choice for Gaia to make – and that’s part of what makes it all so fascinating.
Zombie Chickens say: Compelling, unique and discussable – highly recommended.
BIRTHMARKED – available in hardcover
PRIZED – coming November 8, 2011
BOOK 3 – Coming Fall 2012
Find out more about the series at the author’s website.
Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: Fresh Blood by The Eels. Sample lyric: “In a moment of clarity, summon an act of charity. You gotta pull me out of this mud. Sweet baby, I need fresh blood.”
Prize pack up for grabs! One lucky winner will get the BIRTHMARKED hardcover and the PRIZED ARC. To enter, fill out this form by August 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST. Prize & shipping provided by publisher and therefore US and Canada only.