Author: Caragh M. O’Brien
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife, Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia’s mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia’s choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.”
Thoughts: In the future, every life is precious. Life is so precious, in fact, that every month a small amount of babies are honored by being afforded a life of privilege inside the Enclave, and those midwives who serve the Enclave are provided extra privileges for their services. In Birthmarked, Caragh O’Brien puts forth the idea of society over individual rights in a unique premise where society must band together in order to survive, but at what cost?
Gaia is an enjoyable heroine, naive but not afraid to learn from her mistakes nor follow her core values. She is young and acts it at times, which is also exhilarating from the reader’s perspective. The reader cannot help but sympathize with the raw deal she has been handed, as her handling of those situations is more than admirable. It will be interesting to see how much she grows as she is forced to take on a more physically demanding role.
Dystopian fiction, by its very nature, requires the reader to consider modern-day society and imagine what it would take to get to the point where society is at within the novel. Birthmarked is no different. Capitalizing on the growing urgency over global warming, Ms. O’Brien has created a world in which the reader can not only recognize certain aspects of the locale, the causes of the catastrophes that lead to the creation of the Enclave are clearly defined. If anything, Birthmarked serves as a warning to prevent such events from happening.
Birthmarked offers a unique perspective on the future with an imaginative storyline that is refreshing in its simplicity. Gaia’s world, especially the Enclave, is unsettling in its familiarity, lending an air of realism to this futuristic worldscape. Gaia’s world is not quite as clear-cut as one might expect, forcing the reader to reevalute his or her own ethics in light of what is good for the society. This interesting twist allows Birthmarked to stand out among a genre that is quickly becoming saturated.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.