Genres: Young adult, dystopia, science fiction.
Gaia Stone lives in a dystopian society that’s split in two: the rich, privileged members live inside the walled Enclave while the rest, including Gaia, live in poverty Outside. It is an acquiesced law that the first three babies born every month will be “advanced” into the Enclave to be brought up by the elite. Gaia happily serves the Enclave as a midwife, alongside her mother, until she comes home one night to find that her mother and father have been arrested. Gaia has been told that her parents have been hiding something that the Enclave desperately wants and it’s up to Gaia to decide whether to give up the information or rebel against authority and rescue her parents.
The story begins with a dramatic and heartbreaking scene; Gaia is in the middle of helping a young woman deliver her baby. This newborn is the first baby quota of the month, unbeknown to the mother who is under the impression that the quota has already been filled and she can keep her baby. We’re instantly introduced to the harsh and unthinkable laws that the Enclave enforce. Caragh M. O’Brien’s world-building is brilliant. There is a scientific basis behind the Enclave’s laws, which makes the society more believable and terrifying. There’s also a surprise for Gaia once she enters the Enclave – she realises that the split society isn’t as simple as she first thought and she’s faced with shocking reality.
Birthmarked has everything I could want in a young adult dystopian novel, including the inevitable romance. Gaia begins to develop a relationship with Leon, an Enclave guard. However, the romance is understandable, natural, and not at all contrived. Leon has his own back story, which isn’t as desirable as Gaia first thought.
Birthmarked is an epic, thought-provoking dystopian novel. I’ve already picked up the sequel, Prized, and I’ll be rooting for Gaia Stone all the way.