{Review & Upcoming Giveaway Opportunity} BIRTHMARKED by Caragh M. O'

Stop back at A Backwards Story this weekend for a huge giveaway!
Enterto win all three books in the BIRTHMARKED Trilogy and three other autographed novels!!

I'll also be attempting to live tweet from the event for the first time.  Wish me luck!
O P E N I N G   H O O K:

IN THE DIM HOVEL, the mother clenched her body into one final, straining push, and the baby slithered out into Gaia's ready hands. 

"Good job," Gaia said.  "Wonderful.  It's a girl." 

The baby cried indignantly, and Gaia breathed a sigh of relief as she checked for toes and fingers and a perfect back. It was a good baby, healthy and well formed, if small. Gaia wrapped the child in a blanket, then held the bundle toward the flickering firelight for the exhausted mother to see.Gaia wished her own mother were there to help, especially with managing the afterbirth and the baby. She knew, normally, she wasn’t supposed to give the baby to the mother to hold, not even for an instant, but now the mother was reaching and Gaia didn’t have enough hands.

(pg. 1, US Library Edition)

BIRTHMARKED is unique because when it first came out in hardcover, I remember seeing it and not really paying attention one way or the other.  I didn't really read this genre at the time.  After hearing that Caragh M. O'Brien was going to be on tour locally with Fierce Reads, I took another look at the book and thought it sounded interesting, so I picked it up from the library (and have since bought my own copies for the signing).  I'm really glad I took a chance because the Birthmarked Trilogy features a refreshing world I haven't seen before.

While the series takes place about 300 years in the future and has dystopian aspects, it's also political.  The book centers around Gaia, a sixteen-year-old girl who assists her mother as a midwife.  In her world, the first three babies born each month outside the Wall are Advanced into the Enclave, where they are offered a lush, privileged life.  When Gaia's parents are taken into custody by the Enclave, Gaia is left alone to be the only midwife.  At first, she's eager to serve the Enclave, believing that the three babies she's to Advance are lucky.  When she hears that her parents are scheduled to be executed, however, she sneaks through the Wall into the Enclave and winds up being arrested.  She soon learns that there's more that meets the eye when it comes to the Enclave, and that her parents have been keeping secrets that those in power will do anything to get their hands on.

I love the way Gaia isn't perfect.  She has bad scarring on her face from a childhood accident and is very shy because of it, but as she grows into herself and is embraced by the people around her, she learns to accept herself, flaws and all.  That's one reason that books such as Justina Chen Headley's NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL (review) and Zoë Marriott's DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES (review), which also feature characters with facial deformities, stand out.  Not just facial deformities, either. The overweight heroine in Rae Carson's THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS (review) also comes to mind. When a character is able to embrace her flaws, or at least learn to live with them and still enjoy life, there's an extra layer to the story not present in other novels, at least in my opinion. 

Gaia is also a stickler when it comes to standing up for what she believes in.  While this can, at times, be an exasperating trait, it's also admirable and I enjoy seeing the situations she finds herself in.  While there's not a lot of romance in the first book, there's more in later volumes.  I love the way O'Brien doesn't do the insta-love thing, but builds up strong, healthier relationships.  We need more like these in YA.

Usually, I know what to expect as a plot unfurls.  With BIRTHMARKED, I was constantly surprised by the directions O'Brien chose to take.  The surprises continue in the second book, PRIZED, when the book goes in a completely different direction than I ever thought possible, which I'll talk about next week when I review the book.  I've eagerly begun PROMISED to see how O'Brien brings everything together and discover the surprises lying in store this time around.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

At first, I was kind of meh about the covers for this series.  After reading the first two books and beginning the third, however, they're so meaningful!  Each book in the trilogy features an object from the series.  The ribbon on the cover of BIRTHMARKED, in particular, is an integral element of the novel.  I had to inspect the cover up close after buying the book! (I bought it for the signing, but read a library copy, which has the original cover and not this one).
I also adore the font used for the titles of all three books, especially the way the letters swirl.  I am a sucker for letters that turning into swirly patterns.

The original cover (see right) doesn't match the series as well as the new covers.  It's hard to make a cover for a series when a girl has a really large scar on her face, for one thing.  For another, in a world like this one, it's hard to depict scenes or the right ideas because there's nothing traditional about the series.  In the end, after knowing why each cover looks the way it does, I really appreciate them!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Release Date: Out March 30, 2010
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan
[But now with the Square Fish imprint]
Received: Borrowed
(But also Purchased!)
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.

A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.


  1. This does sound really good. I think I'll use it for a TBR or Off the Shelf Challenge in 2013.


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