Book Review: The Birthmarked Trilogy | Birthmarked

            My long awaited reading slump is finally over! I found the book of my dreams, the love of my life, my crops are watered, and world peace is on the horizon... At least for my last three brain cells, but that's neither here nor there. I have struggled hard this year with a reading slump that I hadn't a clue how to come out of. It seemed A Tale of Two Cities had sucked out my will to carry on (with reading that is), though I'm still not quite sure as to why.
            But then!
            There was a glint of light at the end of this sad slump, an ignorant sixteen-year-old midwife in a dystopian future! Who would have ever called that one? Yes, we're going to talk about the first book in The Birthmarked Trilogy, 

           In case you're not familiar with the premise;

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.


          I adore stories that just throw you into their setting without a care if you're ready to hop into the boiling pot or not. Birthmarked does this by having us meet young midwife Gaia Stone in the aftermath of helping a woman give birth, promptly marking that baby, then snatching that baby away, and handing said baby over to Enclave guards. All that in just the first chapter and I knew I was in for a fun ride. Seeing this vastly different future in the eyes of a naive sixteen-year-old I think only heightened the experience.
          It's in the second chapter that we meet our future love interest, Captain Leon Grey, who is a couple year's older than Gaia. The two meet in Gaia's home after her parents were arrested and imprisoned but not before Gaia is given a secret code left behind by her parents by Old Meg who just ups and leaves town immediately afterward. Whew! This pot got hot extremely fast.
            With all that out of the way, the instant Leon stepped 'on-screen' I knew he was going to be a big deal and I wasn't disappointed. I know there's a lot of discussion surrounding the all too common love interest tropes in YA and how there are way too many love triangles, but honestly, I'm such a sucker for love stories that I'll gobble up anything. This doesn't mean I won't criticize it if it's bad  (in terms of story or just terrible representation of romantic love) it just means I welcome all of it will open arms and then I tear it apart.
             Throughout the story Gaia and Leon have this back and forth with each other that is pretty honest with one another for the two have vastly different backgrounds and positions of power. It was quite refreshing to have a YA couple actually talk to each other versus the boring we-can-never-actually-talk-about-our-feelings-or-else-the-plot-will-end-sooner-than-the-book couples so widely seen in YA and Romance novels.
             Eventually, Gaia sneaks into the Enclave's wall (by page 60, mind you. Which had me honestly at a lost for words as to where this story was going to go!) just in time to witness a good ol' incestuous pregnant hanging! Something I loved about this story, other than it's complete and utter encaptivating nature, is the biological science that is thrown around and integral to the plot. Because this story takes place about three hundred years into the future and the population inside the Enclave has become more and more related to each other as the generations go on. To compensate the repercussions of accidental (or not) incest the Enclave have a baby quota for the outside town so that their population can be more diverse.
           The baby quota, by the way, has effected Gaia in more ways than she knows. One, both her brothers were given up to the Enclave when they were both one years old. Due to this, and the fear that they would have to give up their third child, Gaia's parents deliberately burned the left? side of her face so that the Enclave couldn't take her. The Enclave want perfect babies, physically, internally, and mentally. Thus Gaia has always lived with being seen as a freak or an outsider and distrusted anyone for showing an interest in her. Oh, I did relate to that!
            But back to the incestuous pregnant hanging.
            So knowing or not knowing that your spouse is either your sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle, or seventh cousin twice removed on your step-uncle's side, is going to cause problems for the rest of the Enclave population and is thus, prohibited, as witnessed to the incestuous pregnant hanging. Gaia not wanting to see a pregnant woman hang tries to interfere but is unsuccessful. However, she does end up giving the now dead-pregnant woman a c-section and rescuing the baby but not without getting captured and sent to prison. Also, during the hanging Gaia saw her own mother inside the prison yard, however, she doesn't see her within her cell.
            Instead, Gaia is kept with the physicians and midwives because of her unorthodox heroism with the baby. Gaia soon finds out that her father was killed. This sends her into a numb state inside her captivation. She's kept here for weeks only going outside to assist with Sephie Frank in delivering babies. It's on one of these outings that she meets up with the handsome Captain Leon, and they share more than a moment together. Gaia convinces Leon to buy her a loaf of bread and the hijinks of YA love interest pursues!
           Which accumulates in a sweet moment where we find out that when Gaia was sent an orange inside the prison walls it was Leon who sent it as something kind in such a bleak environment. I really appreciate these small moments between the two main characters that author Caragh M. O'Brien gives us and makes us excited for when the two eventually do come together and try to escape in the end. Through a vast series of events including working for the Protectorat of the Enclave (aka Leon's adoptive father) and working out a code that her father had made Gaia winds up being assisted by Leon to escape the Protectorat.
            They use bakers (who Gaia had gone into the wall to find in the first place before getting distracted) within the wall to make a mask for Gaia to enter the Bastian where she heard they were keeping her mother, Bonnie. Between the help of the bakers, Leon, and another helper within the wall Gaia sneaks into the Bastian. She soon finds Bonnie, who's being attended to by Sephie, because *GASP* Bonnie is pregnant!
            This doesn't deter Gaia from her original plan of hightailing it out of the wall and escaping to the Dead Forest (where Old Meg was heading at the beginning of the book). Instead, Gaia drugs the other women attending Bonnie and takes her mother out of the tower. However, because Bonnie's been kept inside and pretty much inactive for her entire pregnancy she is extremely weak and due to the stress goes into early labor. This doesn't bode well for Gaia's escape plan.
           Gaia ends up stuffing her laboring mother into a laundry closet where Bonnie gives birth to Gaia's sister, Maya. This scene was incredibly emotional as Bonnie reveals what her husband and she did to Gaia so they could keep her while Bonnie herself is bleeding out due to hemorrhaging. Gaia has to witness the birth of her sister and the death of her mother in about the span of an hour and it's horrible, grueling, and intensely raw.
           While dealing with the death of her mother and now being the sole caretaker of a newborn baby she didn't even know existed until two hours ago, Gaia continues her plan of escaping, this time with Leon. The ending of this book is agonizingly addictive (as is the rest of the book, but I digress) as Gaia, Maya, and Leon run into obstacle after obstacle trying to escape until they wind up confronting Leon's adoptive family. I haven't mentioned this but Leon's kind of disowned by his adoptive family because of gross misunderstanding and although I've spoiled most of this book I'm gonna leave this one alone as it's truly a mystery moment worth reading for yourself.
             Through another series of shenanigans, Leon and Gaia have to get all dressed up to blend in with the crowd (little Maya is stuffed into a present looking bag to keep anyone from noticing them). They share an absolutely wonderful kiss together before leaving into the rain. I can't overstate enough how much the ending of this book just kicks ass and I don't mean in the traditional full-on action kick ass, I just mean in terms of I-have-no-idea-where-or-how-they're-gonna-survive-this-but-I'm-strapped-in-for-the-ride-my-dude! And although they make it to the gate Leon sacrifices his freedom for Gaia and Maya's safety and our two lovebirds are separated as Gaia and Maya head out into the wilderness and thus ending the first book of the series.
              In conclusion;
Birthmarked by Leesa-M on DeviantArt
              I love this Birthmarked. It made me love YA again. Which I should warn you is no easy task. I fled the YA scene back in 2009 after I finished the Twilight series. Eleven-year-old me was so repugnantly disgusted that my favorite character, Jacob Black, had been turned into pedophile that I never looked back to YA and in fact made me hate reading. Yikes! I know. I'll get more into the Twilight series another time, especially seeing as this past autumn it has become one of the funniest memes to ever be created in my humble opinion thanks to the Twilight Renaissance.
            So when I came back to the things I loved, such as writing and reading, in late 2014, I've been very hesitant to step into a new YA novel because of the absolute mess that was Twilight. However, I'm happy to say that Birthmarked completely put those fears to rest and showed me that YA, when done right, is an incredible genre when you allow it to breathe on its own. I can't wait for Prized and whatever Gaia's going to be getting herself into next!


Birthmarked (Birthmarked, #1)Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

      This book has inexplicably and irrevocably annihilated me.
       I loved it so much. I haven't devoured a book like this since '1984' and 'Animal Farm'. The story just ran away with my imagination and it was brutal but not in a terribly gory way (there was some gore but that's to be expected when talking about the birthing process.) I love where O'Brien went with the story, which had me constantly surprised at how fast it moved along (in a good way!). It wasn't hard to fall in love with Gaia especially hearing her experiences of being a 'freak' in her society and how that's affected her personal life as well as ignited her trust issues. I was soooooo excited when Leon was revealed to be a main character you have no idea! I'm such a sucker for romance, even if it's as simple as, "they looked at each other", my little brain will already have them married with four kids all with a 401k. 
             So this book did more than satisfy that side of me while also keeping such an exciting plotline that I'm super upset that I have to wait for my library to get this book in before I can read it, even if it just means waiting out the weekend.
           Cannot wait to see where 'Prized' takes Gaia next! I highly, highly recommend this book and I know it will soon become a favorite go-to for me in the future.

          View all my reviews

            Until Next Time,


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