Thursday, August 5, 2010


Caragh O'Brien
Roaring Brook Press, March 2010

I have been super excited to read Birthmarked all summer and it most certainly lived up to my expectations.

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.

There's a lot going on in this book; many mysteries all playing together, but it works wonderfully. O'Brien weaves everything together to create an interesting and beautifully writen story. Even though there's a lot happening and you're trying to figure out what's really happening in Gaia's world right along with her, you're never overwhelmed with events, characters, or background information. Each element works together quite nicely.

I loved Gaia from the very beginning. She's smart, strong, brave, and realistic. I think she is one of my new favorite female characters in YA. Gaia must face many very difficult choices and she does what she feels is best or whatever it is she has to do to survive. She's not perfect, she's not this amazing heroine - she's realistic and believable, which is what made me love her so much.

The concept of Birthmarked is super interesting. There are a million YA dystopias out right now, but I can't think of any quite like this one. Telling the story from the viewpoint of a teenage midwife is very intriguing and unique. The story is more than just a genetic dystopia or a story of the ideal society being less than ideal because O'Brien is able to weave together these stories and those of a young girl finding herself and questioning the world around her.

Interesting blog post by the cover designer on the process of creating the cover art and the overall process of book design: The Hows and Whys of Cover Design. I'm not sure how I feel about the final cover choice; I saw an ARC with one of the earlier designs (one with girl's face on front and back covers) and thought it was intriguing, but assumed the book was Sci-fi. The final cover is interesting, but I don't think it will appeal extremely well to its intended audience.

I'm excited to hear that the story will continue in a trilogy format. The book ended nicely and could totally be a stand alone novel, but I'm so attached to Gaia that I have to know what will happen to her next.

Add to the top of you to-read pile


  1. I agree with your comments about this book. I have gotten behind in posting my reviews (reading taking up so much time, that I forget about the writing part). But it was a great book, and I too loved the character of Gaia. Will be interesting to see where it goes from here!

    Feel free to check out my reviews on Mostly YA reviews and book news!

    Look forward to reading more! Thanks!

  2. Great review! Birth Marked looks really interesting. I love the cover and the plot sounds terrific.

  3. Awesome review. I actually really like the cover, but that said I'm a big sci-fi fan with an unusual taste. This is at the top of my TBR list.