by Holly Bodger
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Book type: verse/prose novel
Part Homeless Bird and part Matched, this is a dark look at the near future told through the alternating perspectives of two teens who dare to challenge the system.
In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.
Sudasa, though, doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.
This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
It's been a while since I've read a novel in verse. Although 5 to 1 is not told entirely in verse, those sections remind me why I like that style of writing so much. A lot can be said with so few words...
Please, dear author, I want some more...
This books starts out with a really interesting premise, and one that's not really that far fetched. What happens when sex selection, skewed toward boys, starts affecting society? When there are so many boys, they are the ones that eventually become a burden. When there are so few girls, they become what's so highly coveted. Under the guise of protecting these precious commodities, the leaders of Koyanagar walled off their country from the outside world, creating what they believe is a utopia... when it's actually the opposite. Girls still end up being oppressed. It's just in a different way.
I like how the narrative alternates between Sudasa, the wealthy girl who is supposed to choose from a group of boys who are competing for her in the Tests, and Contestant Five, a poor farm boy who doesn't want a wife and wants only to be free of Koyanagar and its laws. Sudasa's sections, which make up the majority of the book, are written in free verse; Contestant Five's sections, which show us the flip side of what's going on, are written in prose. I thought both of these main characters were well done; they're also both likeable, which automatically puts you on their side as they chafe against their country's laws and customs.
The concept of choice is a theme that runs throughout the book. I like the fact that there is no romance, that the story is simply about making decisions for the right reasons... whatever you determine those to be. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I think if the book had veered into romance territory, it would have lost something.
It's all a matter of taste...
I think my biggest complaint with this book is that I wanted more. More about how, exactly, Koyanagar came into existence and why it was allowed to happen. I want to know what happens to Sudasa and Kiran after the end of the book. I want to know what's going on outside the wall and how those people view Koyanagar.
Let's get technical...
I read this book as an EPUB, which is probably not the best way. There's some unique formatting of words, and little marks and illustrations throughout the text. I'm not even sure I saw everything as the author intended, due to the limitations of that format. If you're going to read this one, I would suggest reading it in hardcover or paperback.
This is another strong offering in the young adult verse novel category. Those who like dystopian fiction with an intriguing premise will probably enjoy it.
"Love won't give you a daughter,
and only a daughter
will keep you alive.
"If you think you're here to find
you've missed the point of these Tests.
"You're here to find a man
to put charms on your wrist
and yira in your safe.
That's the only thing that matters
Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 ladybugs