25 April, 2015

REVIEW: BIRTHMARKED by Caragh M. O'brien

Title: Birthmarked
Author: Caragh M. O'brien
Series: Birthmarked #1
Genres: YA, Science Fiction
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Source: Physical copy
Pages: 316

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SYNOPSIS: In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

If I remember correctly, and I am 99.9% sure, I read this book during my exchange year in the US. For my English 12 class we were required to read at least 3 books per semester for further analysis, presentations, homework, etc about them. Now, 3 books per semester? 6 books per year? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I read over 35 books that year even though I had to study hard for my Spanish A-Levels (we call it Selectividad). Anyway I had just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and I was looking for some other dystopian books when I found Birthmarked. I was immediately drawn to the cover, such gorgeous and mysterious cover, but I decided to read it when I reach the part of the plot summary where it says "enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying" because I do not often encounter characters who persevere through think and thin to rescue their parents. Boyfriend/girlfriend? yeah, brother/sister? yeah, but parents? never before. 

THE WORLD: It introduces us to the dystopian world of the Enclave. The Enclave is a walled town, much like castles in the Middle Ages, where the rich people live and of course they have access to the best water quality, food, nice clothing, education, etc. while outside of the Enclave the poor people live with barely anything (it really reminds me of the Middles Ages). The only problem that the Enclave encounters after some years is that suddenly all the babies and kids inside the wall start dying. In order to solve this problem the Enclave established a "quota" of babies each month, meaning that every midwife outside the wall had to take the first 3 newborns they attended and give them to the families inside so they can be adopted and raised with all the privileges. By the way, the Enclave is ruled by a Protectorat and works like a dictatorship. What he says is law.

THE CHARACTERS: Gaia Stone is a 16 year old girl and one of those poor people living outside the Enclave with her parents, she has been trained to be a midwife just like her mother and in this context is where the book begins. Gaia is out of her home attending a woman in labour when all the bad news come, her parents have been arrested and taken inside the Enclave. Here is when Gaia can't believe what the Enclave has done because her family has always followed the rules, they have been loyal and always paid the quota. You may think "oh well but they will be raised properly and they won't lack nutrition" that is true but the story here is HOW and WHY the Enclave does such an evil thing like taking the babies away from their parents.
Moving on. Gaia decides to break into the Enclave and rescue her parents but in her attempt she gets imprisoned as well (good job Gaia). While she is in jail she is brought to the Protectorat for interrogation and that's when the mystery starts. She discovers a series of secret messages her parents left for her but she has to solve their riddles and codes in order to decipher it. Meanwhile she meets Leon Grey, a good-looking soldier of the wall's army who decides to help her.

LOVE: For those of you who were wondering if there is any romance... yes, but the story doesn't focus on it too much. Romance gets deeper in the following books nonetheless.

PLUS: I won't tell any spoilers of course but it was very very interesting to read the whole story which by the way is not complete until you read all the trilogy. I specially loved one part involving riddles and codes *wink wink* and I felt like the world of Gaia was very well described and complete.

MINUS: I didn't have any problems with this first book. I had some issues with the next books but this one was fantastic!

OVERALL: I loved this book so much. It is on my favourites list. It has a deep meaning behind that sometimes we don't think about when it comes to YA or dystopian books but it is actually there, we just have to search for it. I enjoyed being inside Gaia's head and I almost never felt like I disagreed with her decisions, she had good reasons to do what she did everytime.
I recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys reading about dystopian, a bit mystery, some romance but not too cheesy romance and YA. Even if you're not into any of those genres... I still recommend it, give it a chance!

EXTRA: I once emailed Caragh to express my love for these books and a fanmade poster I thought was brilliant and she replied back! It is always nice when your favourite authors reply to your messages.

What did you guys think about BIRTHMARKED?