Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Title: Birthmarked
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Length: 361 pages
Original Publishing Date: March 30th, 2010
Series: Birthmarked #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
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.

Main characters: 3/5

Gaia is a generally likable main character who goes through the necessary phases of a good developing heroine: she begins ignorant and slightly entrenched in the way of her dystopian government, a disaster or tragedy changes her existence, and slowly but surely, she begins changing; gaining a backbone and fighting back against the government. However, I was disappointed because nothing about Gaia particularly stuck out to me. I like that she was realistic; that sometimes she could be rash or naive or frustrating, but there wasn't anything that made me say, "Hey, I really like this girl".

Secondary characters: 2.5/5

Yay for slow and subtle developing relationships! The romance between Leon and Gaia was so slow, it practically didn't happen... oh wait... Regardless of the molasses-pace of the developing romance, I actually really liked Leon. He had that bad-boy thing going for him, with a hint of vulnerability.

A lot of the other secondary characters were a little half-baked. By this I mean, I liked them, but I wanted more from them in terms of complexity and development. Myrna was interesting and I liked where her character was going, but then she just sort of disappeared.

Writing style: 2/5

The biggest problem with O'Brien's writing style was the pacing. It was so slowwwww.... Especially in the middle of the book, where Gaia enters the Enclave, the writing pacing becomes so slow that I wanted to fast forward my audiobook! Absolutely nothing happens plot-wise, and yet O'Brien chooses to write every moment of it, so I felt almost as agonized as Gaia must have!

Beside the grievous pacing issue, I also felt that O'Brien had some minor plot holes and lack of research that made the writing unrealistic sometimes.

Plot: 2/5 
I was extremely disappointed in the world-building. I really didn't feel the atmosphere of the "sunbaked world" and the Enclave wasn't really developed enough, especially their relationship with the outside sectors.

The concept itself was a little different than we normally see in dystopian and I really liked the idea behind it, but O'Brien's execution was weak. Everything was described in a very detached and clinical way, and I didn't really feel that the main conflict was worth the intense trouble it caused. It became rather contrived, in my opinion.

Ending: 1/5

Nope. I wasn't having it. The ending seemed so rushed and then something big and exciting happens but I was questioning it and the randomness and then suddenly the book was over and it was like, cliffhanger much? Nothing was answered and I'm sure the next book will hold all the answers but honestly, there is nothing to make me come back on this one.

Best scene: The one where Gaia and Leon dress up to try and sneak out

Reminded Me Of: The Giver meets The Hunger Games

Positives: Interesting concept, mediocre main character, slow developing romance

Negatives: Forgettable characters, half-baked secondary characters, pacing, world-building, weak plot execution, ending

Cover: I know the color scheme is a little stale, but I actually really love the font and the way it jumps out, paired with the texture of the wood.

Verdict:  I was unimpressed with this dystopian, which had few aspects to save it

Rating:  4.2 / 10 (2 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

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