Friday, March 26, 2010

Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

Release Date: March 30, 2010
Book Description (from goodreads):

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

Source: Roaring Brook Press (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Birthmarked takes place in the future. But despite this big leap in time, the line of social division is still clear. In developing countries, like my country, there is a wide gap between the privileged and the underprivileged. The same thing happens in Birthmarked. The rich (the people who live inside the wall) have all the advantages in life. People like Gaia have to work really hard for water, for food and even for their own entertainment - Tvaltar, which is their movie house. They are powerless over things dictated by the Enclave, such as the baby quota.

Every month, the first three babies who are born are advanced to the Enclave. In Gaia's memory, it has always been like this. For me, the baby quota is a big sacrifice that weighs down on the heart of every mother. Despite the compensation for the advancing of a baby, it still feels unfair. The pain of losing a child is something that can never be erased with a mere compensation of goods. What's worse is that the parents are not given a chance to know their child. Cutting the familial connection between a mother and a child is just heartless. It causes not only emotional pain, but also psychological blows on the mother.

In Gaia's dangerous journey within the walled Enclave, she witnesses the hanging of a pregnant woman, an act that stripped the beautiful facade of the Enclave and revealed the cruelty beneath. Then the one mistake she commits taints her clean record and lands her in prison. With her freedom taken away, her parents scheduled to die soon and her own life at stake, Gaia moves mountains to escape the prison and save her parents. Every move matters especially when the Enclave is always watching. With the help of Leon, the soldier who interrogated her the day her parents were arrested, can Gaia accomplish what she set out to do and flee to the Dead Forest?

I loved Gaia! She's very loving, fiercely loyal and undaunted. Seeing how she was teased and laughed at because of her scarred face makes me want to reach in the pages and defend her. Leon, cold and handsome, is very interesting. There's something with the way he looked so hollow that told me he was keeping chunks of emotions and secrets about himself. And I was right! He was! As the story progresses, Gaia finds an ally in Leon. Their relationship buds gradually and bursts open in a beautiful bloom near the ending.

O'Brien writes outstandingly with attention to detail. She captivates readers with a world baked dry by the harsh sun and characters baked fresh from strong emotions and survival struggles. She poured life into this dry world with her pen and drew a gripping story of an underprivileged girl who risked her life to save her parents and to bring hope to her people. I was stunned with her words. I kept reading obsessively over the lines that I loved the most. Her flashbacks were colored with the sweetness of childhood.

Overall Birthmarked is a wonderful read. Eventhough the story was awful because of the bad experiences presented, at the same time, it also inspires readers and makes us realize the worth of the things that we usually take for granted. I loved to be in Gaia’s action packed world. I highly recommend this!

Birthmarked is a dystopian novel that will mesmerize readers with vivid imagery of the future world and mark readers with a refreshed appreciation of life and of Mother earth.



  1. Fantastic review, Precious! You've captured my interest in reading this ten times more than it already was. It sounds like an incredibly intricate world Caragh has created and a thought-provoking read. One I'm sure I will be sucked into!

  2. Thanks Brodie! And it really is thought-provoking! It was awesome! DM in twitter is a bonus. :)

  3. I think dystopian fiction always make us realize how much we take things for granted. I can see very well through your review that you truly felt for Gaia and now I can't wait to read this book. Wonderful review ..

  4. Wow, what a great review! I'm so pumped to read Birthmarked, it sounds like it raises a lot of questions and really gets you thinking. I like that. Gaia sounds like a great character, too!

  5. This one looks great!! Stopping by from the book blogger hop!