I know young adult science fiction and dystopian works are hugely popular right now, but with all the praise and press I've heard for The Hunger Games, Delirium, Wither, and Matched, I've found another in the genre that seems to be running under the radar of popular titles.   Caragh M. O'Brien's novel Birthmarked was recommended to me by my librarian aunt and I'm incredibly glad that I jumped at her suggestion to read it (she hasn't steered me wrong yet).

Gaia Stone is a midwife who has learned all her skills from her mother - how to deliver a baby and how to calm and comfort a mother whose child will be taken from her, because in Gaia's village the first three babies born each month have a special fate. Three children a month are "Advanced" and pulled from their homes in the slums to be raised in the Enclave, destined to have better nutrition, education, and opportunities they would be denied outside the city walls.

Gaia has never questioned her life or her duty, but when her parents are taken to the Enclave and Gaia herself is interrogated about her mother's work, she begins to see beneath the surface of the life she has always known. Suddenly the strange tattoo, four small dots on the heel, that her mother has given to every baby she delivered gains a new significance and it is up to Gaia to unravel the mysteries around her when her own life is at stake.

Caragh M. O'Brien captivated me with Birthmarked. The dystopian world she created has just enough echoes of modern society to be realistic, but the future portrayed is a bleak and chilling one. I loved the way that science and genetics were blended into the story to create a tale that is as smart as its heroine. Gaia Stone manages to be intelligent and innocent, sweet but also strong. It is the dichotomy of her character that pulled me into the narrative and kept me hooked from start to end. Her relationship with Leon, the captain of the guard within the Enclave, was also handed beautifully. In a genre peppered with love at first sight or cliche triangles, their interactions of animosity turned mutual respect had layers of complexity that I really appreciated.

This is O'Brien's debut young adult novel and I eagerly anticipate more great work from her in the future. Birthmarked is the first in a planned trilogy with Prized to hit shelves November of 2011, and a third yet untitled book to follow in 2012.  I keep telling myself I'm going to stop starting new series books whose sequels are not yet released, but in this instance I'm glad to have read Birthmarked.  The mix of science and suspense, friendship and family, mystery and midwives made for a very excellent book.

Has anyone else read this one or planning to read it?  I'm curious to know if anyone wants to compare notes in how it stacks up against other YA dystopian stuff.  Maybe it's the science nerd in me, but this one spoke to me with an element of believability that I haven't found in many others.  I'm really interested to know if other readers agree or disagree!

3 Response to "Birthmarked"

  1. melissa @ 1lbr says:
    October 19, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    I read and loved this, but it was over a year ago, so I can't really remember how it compares to some. However, I loved the concepts and the story. Good stuff!

  2. Anonymous Says:
    October 19, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    Well, you read it just in time so you only have to wait for a bit for the sequel. I've read a little bit of dystopian but nothing that has really capture me. Maybe Birthmarked is the one which will permanently hook me?

  3. Danielle Zappavigna says:
    October 24, 2011 at 2:48 AM

    I haven't read this yet, but want to. Like you I hate having to wait for the next in a series so I do try to wait until they're all published, but sometimes I can't help myself and have to read the first as soon as it's out :-)

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