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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Check your DNA at the door and take out your ribbons, let's decode "Birth Marked" by Caragh M. O'Brien


Jespy's (never-too-late) book review of Birth Marked by Caragh M. O'Brien

That opening birthing scene had me at "push". I mean... mothers forced to give up their babies to the government? Newborns with ankle tattoos? What the heck is not fascinating about that? And then Sgt. Leon Gray showed up and things got a whole lot fascinatinger. And THEN Gaia cut the baby from the corpse and things got the fascinatingest!

Yes, I liked this book. I liked Leon and how he was freakishly handsome. I liked the *basic* premise (government forces outlying society to hand over a quota of newborns in exchange for meager support). I liked the conflict between Gaia and Leon. I liked the entertainment value I got out of it. I will for sure read the next book in the series.

BUT...

In order to like this book, I had to suspend all logic and commonsense. Heavily. Otherwise I would have been asking myself the whole time...

Why would Gaia's dad bother to keep a coded list of births when the Enclave could simply use their DNA technology if they ever wanted to find birth families? Why would he want to keep that info from them in the first place?

Why didn't the Enclave simply use their DNA technology to find birth families? Are there no Maury reruns to reference in the future? (Say it ain't so!) They could take babies straight from the womb, but it was too much work to gather up women of a certain childbearing age and swab their mouth? Maybe ask them when they gave birth? When their last period was? Narrow things down a bit?

You know how the babies were given the choice to go back to their birth families when they turned 13? Well, how the heck would they know what family to go back to without any record of what family they came from? Wouldn't that be enough reason for the Enclave to keep a record of this stuff from the beginning?

You know how the Enclave only accepted healthy babies into their midsts? Well, why then, on the adoption records Gaia stole from the nursery, was there a separate column to list "Healthy boy" or "Healthy girl" if they were ALL healthy? Seems redundantly redundant to me.

Did Gaia's parents really have to disfigure the whole side of her face to keep her out of the Enclave? Couldn't they have done something cuter, like Tina Fey's scar? And why was the fact that she was intentionally scarred a surprise to Gaia, when it was perfectly obvious to everyone else?

Were there no brilliant minds in the Enclave who could decode a backwards alphabet written in reverse block letters? Were there no middle schoolers they could take out of class to crack the code?

You know when Mabrother Iris sharp-shooted the bird that was sitting right by Gaia's childhood BFF? Why didn't Gaia get the not-so-subtle hint? And after that happened, why did Mabrother Iris insist Gaia was smarter than her mother? (page 190, Gaia asked, "Why do you think I can solve [this super complicated code] when my mother can't?" His smile did not reach his eyes. "Because you're smarter.") Wha?

Other comments:

Every so often, the author did that thing where she recapped what the reader just learned... in case we didn't get it. She was real in-your-face about it too. Evidence, from the end of chapter 11:
"[Gaia] had rediscovered what it was like to be alive and hungry.
She had realized that the freckles were more than just a tribute to her brothers.
She was going to survive this interment and find a way out."

She could have prefaced that by saying, "So, to sum up what just happened..."

Regarding names. I know this shouldn't matter; I hated Gaia's name. I pronounced it Gee-ah, but I'm not good with triple vowels. When I found out it was actually pronounced "Guy-ah", I almost barfed. Granted, I had the the flu.