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Prized (Birthmarked) Hardcover – November 8, 2011
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“Although this is undeniably a dystopia, it is filled with romance and beauty…” ―School Library Journal
“…this series practically begs to be a book club selection.” ―VOYA
“Fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling books should know about O'Brien's writing: these are smart, tough romances.” ―Booklist
“Much like Birthmarked, Caragh again creates a vivid dystopian world that was so easy to imagine as the story goes on.” ―Mundie Moms blog
“Prized was an intriguing read that I didn't want to put down. Most of the characters are absolutely lovely, and the plot is one to get you hooked! I am eagerly anticipating the last book in the trilogy, I am very curious to see where Caragh M O'Brien will take readers after the unpredictable twist Prized ends with.” ―The Book Cellar
“Readers who loved Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien will definitely not want to miss out on its sequel Prized, nor will fans of Shift by Charlotte Agell, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and Dark Parties by Sara Grant.” ―The Book Muncher
About the Author
Since earning an MA in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, Caragh M. O'Brien has been a high school teacher, an author of romance novels, and now a novelist for teens. Her novels Birthmarked and Prized were named YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults. Birthmarked was also a Junior Library Guild Selection and chosen for the ALA 2011 Amelia Bloomer List. She lives with her family and writes from her home in Connecticut.
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When last we saw Gaia, she had escaped from the Enclave with her newborn baby sister, Maya. After two weeks of traveling across the Waste Lands, the two sisters are starving and week. A man comes upon them and takes them to his community of Sylum. (There are lots of “our” words that have been hybridized for this book). Once in the community, Gaia discovers that the women are in charge, and dying off. Gaia has to relinquish her sister to the Matrarc (told you). Gaia manages to make herself useful to the community by being a midwife, but also manages to alienate herself by being headstrong and ignoring the laws. Add to that, an old familiar face shows up, and Gaia unexpectedly finds herself in a love square.
The book is interesting; there are some good plot points in the book. But, I would have to give it just a three out of five stars, and am not sure if I will read the third. The same ground seems to be covered over and over within this genre, and I find myself liking the genre less and less. I can no longer read dystopian literature back to back, like I could when I first discovered these books. But, that’s me.
The new world (Sylum) was especially fascinating, and the laws and lifestyles of the people gave me a lot to think about.
It was my first experiences with a love square (that I can recall), and I thought that was both fun and heartbreaking to the extreme. It reminds me of how many people and moments there are in life. Sometimes we pass them up, and sometimes we let those people creep into the small places of our hearts, which can be really good, rather bad, and occasionally ugly.
Overall, my first impression is...up-and-down. I had some of my most enjoyable moments in the entire story in this book. And no, I don't just mean the Leon Grey/Quarry/Vlatir action. *wink*wink* not telling. There were some really beautiful moments between women, like several from Birthmarked, but unmarred by the questions of baby "advancement." Oh wait, no they weren't.
Sylum is nearly as restrictive as the Enclave, except that it is a matriarchal society ruled by, you guessed it, the Matrarch. But I'm getting ahead of myself. There were aspects of this story I loved, some which felt left unfulfilled, and some which just weren't a fit for me.
Leon. You have to love Leon. He's so irresistibly drawn to Gaia, even when it (and she) drives him nuts. He is allowed to grow from a reserved, damaged young man into a full-fledged, dirty, snarling, fighting heartthrob. Genius!
Gaia. When you are reminded that she's just sixteen, and that she's lost so much, your heart goes out to her. Sometimes her innocence is as shocking as her world-weariness. But her innate, magnet-like draw to pregnant women and babies is her true core, and I'm glad to see it explored in more depth and layers in this book. O'Brien explores the depth of issues in the complicated web that is womanhood and motherhood, without it feeling like a treatise or lecture. As a midwife, these complications are a natural part of Gaia's life. The thing about Gaia that is so interesting is that her convictions are so strong that she pushes herself to incredible feats of bravery or endurance in order to get someone to LISTEN to this little girl.
The Fading of the Scar. In Sylum, Gaia is desired, even with her scar. In fact, you often "forget" she has it in that no one reacts to it in the ways they did in Birthmarked. Of course, she benefits from a society that is extremely man-impoverished, but you never get the sense that THAT is why some of them like her. She's different, but in this book, finally, that difference is valued by those around her. And even better, that difference is not on the surface, it's within her.
Back to Leon. Ok (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) so in the last book she gave us a sweet kiss. Wonderful. And then he crossed the Wasteland and endured terrible hardships for her...and eventually, she for him. And O'Brien gave us a little lap make out session. Goosebumps. Adorable. Sweet. Delicious. Aaaaaaaaaand then Gaia pulled away again, mostly. Sigh. I would really have liked a little more of that. Just a little more.
Baby Sex Changes. She explained why people seized up and died when they tried to leave Sylum, and they sorta explained why the female children are changed to males, at least, externally. But they never really follow this up or discuss it further. I was kind of like WHAT???? All these poor people had their sexes changed in utero by hormones from the old fish farm and no one really delves into that again. But as a sci-fi girl, the mysteries of Sylum were a major part of my interest and this one was, sadly, unfulfilled.
Weren't a Fit for Me
These are nit-picks...or things that are not preferences for me. This was the "down" in my up and down with the story.
Peter. I enjoyed Peter. He was a ray of sunshine in a dark part of Gaia's world. He was clearly handsome and strong, and kind and sexy. Buuuuuuut. Gaia was also into his brother Will? And Leon? Of the four, I found Peter the least credible. Will's tendency toward medicine (and also described sexiness) made me think Gaia would more likely stir his heart. I get it that Peter is more impetuous, but their spark was too quick and unexplained for me really.
Going Back to the Enclave / Where the Heck is Everybody Else? Ok, (SPOILER ALE....oh, heck, the review has spoilers, all right?) so they are headed back to the Enclave, which O'Brien explains by saying that there is no place else that they know of to go...and like many dystopians I have a burning question. Where the Heck is Everybody Else? There are only groups numbering in the thousands left? Really? I proposed an apocalypse that wiped out over 99 percent of people and there are still a LOT left when you start with 7 billion. So anyhoo, being the sci-fi geek that I am, I'd just like to know why the Enclave and Sylum are the only places left. But maybe I just have to wait for book three for that...
Oh and by the way, I wanted to hate the matriarchal society, mostly because I often find them to rest on fallacies about women, such as, we are inherently better people than men. But I liked O'Brien's Sylum. I thought it was interesting, layered, and in some ways, well-explained. And in keeping with the story, it all rests on the fundamental and so far, inescapable truth, that women bear children.
In the end, I totally recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Birthmarked, Gaia, or dystopians in general. This one is detailed, and well done. I am looking forward to book three.
Most recent customer reviews
What do I mean? I really didn't like the way the first book ended.Read more