Gaia has always lived her life outside the walls of the Enclave, where the privileged live in content and wealth. The people outside the wall are poor, but Gaia has always been happy with her parents, and enjoyed her training as a midwife, advancing babies to the Enclave with her mother as is required of them by the Enclave. But then her parents are taken by the Enclave and imprisoned, and Gaia begins to question everything she knows about the Enclave and the reasons for advancing babies. In order to find the truth, she will have to risk everything to sneak into the Enclave and hunt down answers.
Birthmarked is a surprising, smart and excellent read that is the perfect mixture of heartpounding suspense, mystery, and intrigue, with just the right amount of romance thrown in for good measure. The majority of the novel centers around Gaia as she is confronted with the choice of doing what is right and what is easy, and as she learns to become an independent thinker and not a blind follower of the Enclave. The conflict at the heart of the matter is quite complicated, though at first it appears quite simple: babies are being taken away from their mothers and families. But as you delve deeper into O'Brien's even and tense prose, you come to realize that there is a lot more at stake than previously realized. The use of scientific terms and ideas are just enough to make Birthmarked all the more convincing, and they certainly don't overwhelm or confuse the reader one bit.
Though the ending is frustrating with its open end, there is a certain amount of closure that comes with it that will keep you wondering. Fascinating and intense, this smart, complex, and code-riddled page-turner filled with questions of politics and morality is sure to catch the attention of adults and teens alike.
Cover Comments: I love this cover! The gray and stormy background fits entirely with the content of the book, and I like how the girl's hair is blowing around. The colored ribbons also add just the right amount of color, and I think they hint at the scientific roots of the novel's dilemma without being too overwhelming. This cover is foreboding and intense and perfect!
Birthmarked will be released on March 30th, 2010.
ARC received from publisher.