Birthmarked

(Left – UK/Right – USA Book Cover)

Birthmarked

By Caragh M. O’Brien

384 pages

USA Publisher: Square Fish

UK Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone has followed all the rules set by the Enclave for her entire life. Set in a dystopian world where the upper class live separately behind the Wall in wealth, the rest of population struggle for survival in an environment wrecked by climate change. With a face that’s scarred, Gaia will never know the luxuries of the elite.

Regardless, Gaia and her mother faithfully ‘Advance’ the required quota of the first three babies born a month to the Enclave. It’s a privilege for the children, a chance to be brought up with opportunity. For the mothers it’s a painful honour although they are rewarded for their sacrifice. However, whispers begin to develop, the possibility of adding another child to the quota. When her parents are taken, Gaia struggles with her desire to find them, her duty of serving the Enclave and feelings of desire for the unattainable Enclave guard Leon.

Knowing that to go against the Enclave means death, Gaia ignores the danger and follows her heart to be reunited with her family. Discovered and put into jail, Gaia realises a deeper secret that the Enclave is hiding: sterility. Locked up with other doctors, Gaia learns she is too value and too dangerous to be executed, a piece of a puzzle she never knew had been created.

O’Brien’s debut novel is beautifully woven with secrets and the fight against morality. At times there can be ‘more telling than show’, but the environment O’Brien has created is riddled with possibilities and the fight for survival that is reminiscent of The Hunger Games. Gaia Stone is a unique heroine in being physically flawed but strong in spirit for the love of her family. It’s a quick read that will makes readers request only more, which O’Brien happily obliges with Prized. The trilogy is wrapped up with Promised, to be published in October 2012.

I found Birthmarked to be exciting with O’Brien’s words keeping me up into the early hours. I found her novel by accident at the library. I bumped into a shelf and the book hit the floor as if to say, ‘Read me now!’ Gaia is a strong female lead, and Birthmarked doesn’t seek to be another Twilight. Although there are elements of romance with the handsome Enclave solider Leon, Gaia has her eyes set on the right prize: her family. Her endless strength is inspiring and you can’t help but wonder what exactly the Enclave is up too. I was captured by her character, and praise O’Brien for creating a healthy example of a girl that stands up for herself and accepts her scar that has shaped her life.

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