04. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Dystopia, Fiction, Teen Books

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien, 361 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/01/2012

Gaia is the daughter of a midwife and has trained for it her whole life. She’s really good at what she does, which happens to include making sure that the ruling Enclave gets the required three babies per month. On her way back from a delivery, Gaia is told that her parents have been arrested and that if she has any lists that her mother may have kept, she needs to turn them over to the authorities. Puzzled, Gaia can only think of one thing that might be what the Enclave is looking for: an embroidered ribbon that contains a code. While she doesn’t know what the code means, she attempts to keep it safe while keeping up her duties as the official sector midwife while her mother is in prison. When Gaia receives a note from her mother instructing her to destroy the code, Gaia decides to take actions into her own hands and endeavors to break into the Enclave to save her parents.
Gaia’s character begins as one who simply does as she is told. Entering the Enclave, however, fundamentally changes how Gaia sees her world and compels her to act even when her own life may be threatened. The world inside of the Enclave is very different from the world outside. The outside, or Wharfton, is rough and relatively primitive. The Enclave, on the other hand, has all the amenities afforded to the wealthy. The only problem with those living in the Enclave is their gene pool. The human race has suffered catastrophic losses and the population inside the Enclave is so small that diseases like hemophilia run rampant. Thus, healthy babies are taken from the outside to be raised inside with all the perks granted to the citizens inside.
I found this to be a very interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre. At first, I felt like the premise was a little thin, but by the end, I was hooked. There’s just enough world-building to flesh out the plot and enough action to keep even the more impatient readers going. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that there was little romance; just hints of it. I’ve gotten so tired of post-apocalyptic love stories that this was a rather refreshing change of pace. Gaia’s development as a person comes through fairly well and she makes for a pretty decent heroine. Recommended for fans of Margaret Atwood’s speculative work.

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