Birthmarked (#1 in the trilogy) by Caragh M. O’Brien
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Target Audience: Young Adult
How I found out about it: Recommended to me by my friend Sherry.
Format: Hardcover borrowed from the library
Summary: Gaia is a 16-year-old midwife who must advance three newborn babies to the Enclave within 90 minutes of their birth each month. While she’s out delivering her first baby without the help of her mother, her parents are taken to prison by the Enclave. Gaia doesn’t know why her mother leaves her behind with a list, but she knows she has to break into the Enclave to save them.
Huge dystopia fan right here. Maybe you’ve noticed that already. It’s true. When a friend told me she was reading this book, I wanted to read it with her and luckily my library had it! O’Brien begins Birthmarked so differently than most of the dystopias I’ve read. Immediately I was introduced to Gaia during her first solo delivery as midwife – the story began in the middle of all the action. Most of the time, I’m a bit frustrated with other books because there’s so much to learn about the future society that it takes a while to get to the heart of the story. It was a nice change to read something that began so purposefully. We learn about the inner-workings of the world through actions instead of tons of backstory.
Gaia’s parents are taken to prison while she’s out delivering the baby. Old Meg delivers the news of their abduction to Gaia, and she passes along something her mother wants destroyed. When Gaia returns to her house, she finds Sergeant Grey waiting for her. She has to answer relentless questions about her parents and he begins questioning her about a list. Gaia, at the time, hadn’t yet checked out what Old Meg had given her, but she knew she had to protect it. And she somehow has to get to her parents inside the Enclave.
Many of the young adult books I read are written in first person; this was written in third person and it took me a little while to adjust. The book was also pretty description heavy in the beginning as Gaia had no one she could talk to because they might lock her up in prison if they think she, too, is a traitor. O’Brien did a great job with the dialogue so as the story progressed, I only liked the book even more.
I can’t really tell you about why her parents were locked up because that is what so much of book one of this trilogy is about. The whole concept was brilliant though and O’Brien took me on an emotional roller coaster. I felt sorrowful, distrusting, anxious, and hopeful. While it does take time to understand the meaning of the list, it’s totally worth the wait. I never thought I would think so much about genetics, DNA, and adoption in one book. I also didn’t realize I’d be so intrigued by a certain Sergent Grey…
When the book ended, I had so many remaining questions and hoped that Gaia would reunite with some people that we didn’t see come full circle in the story. I am so excited that the sequel, Prized, was released on November 8th. Must. Read. Soon!