Author: Caragh M. O’Brien
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Rating: Five Stars
Caragh O’Brien explores the bonds of kinship in a deteriorating dystopian society that brings to a head many provocative themes, and forces us to ponder some difficult questions and even more troublesome answers. In Birthmarked, three hundred years into the future, humanity’s survival depends on diversity. But the citizens of Western Sector Three don’t know that. For countless years they have been sacrificing their select newborns to the Enclave for basic necessities, never to see them again. One girl will unravel the mystery and thrust these two societies into chaos.
Birthmarked was such a compelling read because it’s chock full of substance. O’Brien’s world is one of obedience. Where the technology, the advancements of a bygone era, hydroelectricity, computers, and the means to grow food are all controlled by the Enclave. Their rules are harsh and unforgiving to those that disobey them. Those outside the walls live a simple life, largely uneducated and supply…babies to the Enclave unknowing that genetic defects are so prevalent within the upper castes.
O’Brien does not purposely soften the tone of her story merely because it is young adults who are her audience. Rather the adversities that Gaia Stone goes through in Birthmarked, bonds the readers to her plight. When Gaia starts to unravel the mysteries that are left to her after her parents are jailed, she must confront the consequences of her actions. What ultimately happened to the babies that she and her mother “advanced”? What became of her two older brothers? What does Leon want with her? What is the significance of the tattooed “freckles” and worse, how will the Enclave use that knowledge especially as their situation worsens? She has the power to destroy or join together both societies…will she do it?
There is harsh death as well as the balm of new life within O’Brien’s world, which makes it realistic and meaningful. I have read plenty of YA dystopian novels but none of them can come close to the subtly expressive and thought-provoking themes that Birthmarked contained. I was enthralled from the first page, contemplative, and reveling throughout the entire story. It was simply an amazing debut read. Every reader will want to accompany this courageous heroine on the journey to discover exactly what she is capable of, unravel the mystery of the coded ribbon, and whether she can step unfettered into the future. I definitely want more and am anxious to find out what happens in the next book!
A Fiendishly Bookish Review