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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.
Top Customer Reviews
Right from the start, I was surprised in a negative way by the book. Nothing at all is recounted of Gaia's time spent in the wasteland with her sister, not one word. Instead, the book opens with Gaia being scooped up, rescued, and promptly dropped into the middle of yet another dystopian society. I could not believe that the author passed up an opportunity to show more of Gaia's strengths. The story of Gaia's flight practically begs to be told, and I was stunned that it wasn't addressed in the book at all. What a missed opportunity to flesh out not only Gaia's strength of will, but to establish the strength of the bond between her and her sister.
The next unpleasant surprise for me came in the form of the setting: Sylum. I could not for the life of me figure out why Gaia had been plucked from one dystopia just to be plunked down in another. For chapter after chapter, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading some other book or some alternate version of Birthmarked. I simply could not see how Gaia's time in Sylum furthered the plot. Essentially, Birthmarked and Prized are like two stand alone books rather than two installments in a trilogy. Why waste time building a whole new world rather than continuing to explore the one already established in Birthmarked?
However, the most egregious wrong of all, in my opinion, is what is done to Gaia as a character. I really liked her in Birthmarked. She was flawed, but she had many admirable qualities. I loved her sense of justice and the strength of her love for her family. So what happens in this book? She hands Maya over with barely a peep and then doesn't even think of or ask about her sister for the bulk of the story. Really? I also absolutely hated what happened with the romance angle in this book. I thought it went from being a mature, well drawn story of two characters coming to know and care for one another to being a cheap romance novel. I think the intent may have been to show how confusing it was for Gaia once men started to pay attention to her but, instead, Gaia comes across as inconstant and her affections seem very cheaply won. She acts without regard for how anyone else will be affected, thinking only of herself and her own momentary pleasure. Then, when she has to suffer the consequences, she seems only sorry that she was caught and will have to suffer the punishment. I'd also like to know why Gaia is so quick to lick the Matrarc's boots when she was so defiant of the Protectorate. For all intents and purposes, Gaia is an entirely different character in this book.
For most of the book, I found myself rooting vehemently for Leon and wishing the book was told from his point of view instead, though he also suffers from some perplexing contradictions. Still, when he claims Maya as his prize, I wanted to cheer. I was glad to see that someone remembered that Maya existed, since Gaia seemed to do such a good job of forgetting. I also really loved the scene where Leon tears Gaia up one side and down the other because he was so right about everything. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why he didn't simply walk away from her forever, given how many risks he took and how much he suffered for her sake, only to find her living it up in Sylum, happily turning a blind eye to the injustices committed there. I found his behavior highly illogical; one minute he's telling her he doesn't want to see her and the next he's kissing her like there's no tomorrow. This is not the way to deal with the unresolved feelings of someone who has been betrayed by the person for whom they've sacrificed so much.
Basically, I can sum my feelings about this book up by saying that this was a disastrous second installment in the series. I was so turned off by it, found Gaia's behavior so off-putting, that I doubt I'll be back for the third installment.
Let me get this straight. Gaia can kiss Leon and wriggle around a little on his lap, but that's the extent of the sexual content. Apparently, the author/publisher believes that's as much as is appropriate for a 12-year-old audience.
However, we can have a long, lengthy, and detailed discussion of why abortion is an important personal right. Because that's far less controversial than some heavy petting. Whatever your views on abortion, it's a very sensitive topic that many families believe is completely equivalent to the heartless murder of an innocent infant. I think it's a bit less appropriate to champion this cause to young audiences than to include some mild sexual content. And let's not use euphemisms like "miscarry." If you willingly terminate a pregnancy, it's an abortion. Saying otherwise is an insult to people who have had involuntary miscarriages. If you're going to take a stand, have the guts to call it what it is instead of wimping out.
The author has every right to write a novel about abortion, and the inclusion of that topic wouldn't prevent me from reading that novel. But if we're going to target this to pre-teens, their parents have the right to know that the novel promotes abortion. It's not mentioned in the cover flap or the description of the book, so I'm mentioning it now. If you'd rather discuss abortion personally with your child than have her read an author's diatribe on it, think twice about this book for your pre-teen.
That being said, it's a pretty good read for older audiences.