From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—In a dystopian world of the future, apprentice midwife Gaia, who has served the Enclave faithfully along with her parents, is thrust suddenly into a crisis. She delivers her first baby independently of her midwife mother and takes it to the Enclave inside the Wall as the first of her monthly quota of three newborns. Then her parents are arrested and she learns that they will soon be executed. Gaia springs into action and smuggles herself into the Enclave to rescue them. What follows is an exciting, almost breakneck adventure, as Gaia tries to discover what information the Enclave wants from her and her mother and tries to save both of them from prison. Along the way there is a mildly romantic turn to the story as Gaia develops a friendship and attraction to one of the soldiers, a man with a mysterious past. This world is one in which a small society, composed of an elite inside the Wall and a subservient class outside, is completely cut off from knowledge of anyone or anything outside of its borders. The rulers are authoritarian and mysterious and resemble a monarchy rather than the strictly ideological communitarian system in Lois Lowry's The Giver
(Houghton, 1993). The cliff-hanger ending sets up the action for a sequel. Readers who enjoy adventures with a strong heroine standing up to authority against the odds will enjoy this compelling tale.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
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It’s been 300 years since Lake Michigan became Unlake Michigan; the “cool age” is only hazily known to residents of Wharfton, a small village that sits alongside the walled city of the Enclave. Gaia is 16 and works in Western Sector Three with her mother delivering babies, “advancing” the first three per month to live a better life inside the city. It’s a wrenching routine Gaia doesn’t question until her parents are mysteriously arrested by Enclave authorities. Gaia’s rescue attempt is fraught with peril—the burn scar on her face marks her as a “freak” who would never be allowed into the Enclave’s exclusive gene pool—and soon she herself is tossed into a cell with other female physicians. Although the setup suggests speculative fiction, O’Brien’s concerns are corporeal; her impulsive and spirited heroine (who even resists, yes, romance) is the kind readers adore. The facts behind inbreeding and the numerous birthing scenes will give this an added appeal to science-minded teens. Continual revelations push this toward an ending that hints at more to come. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus