Just when I come off a rant with some friends about how much YA novels have been getting on my nerves as of late, I find one that not only doesn’t get on my nerves, but it actually made me get all emotional toward the end of the story. Holly Bodger’s 5 to 1 is set in India in the year 2054. India, whose parents for years have chosen boys to girls seeing them as the more precious commodity, is now faced with a crisis of boys outnumbering girls 5 to 1. Girls are soon given to the highest bidder, but one city, Koyanagar, proposes its own solution from its matriarchs, a solution that would give every man a chance by holding a test that allows all boys to compete and win a wife. After their proposal is rejected, Koyanagar builds a wall and becomes its own country, allowing those who wish to leave one day to do before their country is closed for good to the rest of India. In this new country, women are treated as the highest form of riches, but their lives are still far from being ideal, even in a society where men are cowed, ridiculed, and only valuable for producing daughters.
This story follows two teenagers seventeen-year-old Sudasa, a daughter of a wealthy family who doesn’t want to be a wife, and eighteen year old Kiran (known as Five through much of the novel), a farmer’s son who doesn’t want to be a husband not even to a wealthy wife. However, their destinies, hopes, and dreams still intertwined in this beautifully, heartrending novel of two people who just want to be seen as people and not as their genders.
Each year a group of boys compete in various games of mind and strength to be chosen to be a husband. Sudasa has reached the age where she must take a husband, and Kiran competes because his father wants him to so that he can have a better life, but there are grander plans at work for him that are initially unknown to him. Sudasa begins to realize that the “games” are rigged, no better than what her grandmother claims happened outside the wall of their protected country.
Sudasa knows that this isn’t what she wants for her life, and she knows that, just as she feels like a prisoner, she doesn’t want to make someone her own prisoner by choosing a husband. However, no matter what Kiran thinks of Sudasa, he does see something more in her as the games go on, and Sudasa sees a kindred soul who wants to be free, a soul she wants to help free like herself. How can she do that if she chooses him to be her husband, especially when she must figure out how to run from her own destiny?
First, let me get this out the way for you YA romance lovers. This is not a romance, at least not in any conventional sort of way. There is a girl, and there is a guy. There are burgeoning feelings, but nothing that can truly be acted on in the society they live in, Besides, they’re strangers so they’re not completely sure of their feelings for each other in such a short span of time, and their feelings for each other may be more representative of what the other stands for in this fight against society. There’s no instant love here.
So, if you’re expecting a two teenagers treading through hell and hot water because they just have to be together, this is not your book. If you’re expecting some happily ever after romance tale, this is not your book. That’s not to say that this doesn’t end promising, depending on your view as the reader (and I’m an eternal optimistic, so I feel good about what I believe to happen), but if you think you’re going to get two hot teenagers shoving their tongues down each other’s throats while yelling “DOWN WITH THE AUTHORITY!”, you’re not.
And as much as I grouse about how romance is shoehorned into YA books because that’s what everyone expects, this is one I would not have minded it in because I feel it could’ve been done in a tasteful way. However, I feel it was more important that it didn’t happen as expected because there were far more important issues at play here than romance.
With that out the way, let’s talk about why I enjoyed this book. First, it was a reversal of roles with with men being seen as mostly useless if they couldn’t produce female heirs. Many are relegated to guarding the country’s walls or other more domestic or laborious tasks if they don’t win the games. However, women aren’t much better off. They have a better standing, but they’re bound to strict rules such as what foods are best for producing female heirs, whose blood will produce the most girls because this boy has many sisters.
Their country has seemed to regressed to simpler times. Cell phones and televisions are mentioned, but technology isn’t allowed inside of Koyanagat, so they aren’t aware of how India or the rest of the world actually fares. They only know what they’re told. Some of the older generation can remember cell phones and televisions, but only in memories of being young. They only know what the rulers of their societies tell them, and the society is founded on some anger for men, which isn’t completely unfounded. But anger has a way of become hatred and rage when not bridled.
The women of the society are still unhappy with their positions. They’re afforded better treatment, but most of them know that its a gilded cage for them. Still, while not exactly forced into arranged marriages, the games aren’t much better and put many men in the position to embarrass themselves in front of spectators. I thought this reversal of roles was very interesting. Often people like to believe that a society ruled by women would be a peaceful, benevolent one. For the most part this one is on the surface, but women play politics just as well as men, but with much less bloodshed and much more deception.
Kiran’s initial strategy is not to win at all because he doesn’t want a wife. He doesn’t want to be just some man who’s used for possible female heirs he can produce. He wants to go home. While I repeat, this is not a romance. His feelings for Sudasa isn’t rooted in wanting to love her and take her away. He’s almost willing to submit to free her from a cruel fate of another suitor, but at the same time, he doesn’t realize she wants the same thing for him. She wants to free him. She knows having him as her husband, he’d be kind, but she also knows that would clip his wings. She wants something better for him.
I know some may try to accuse Kiran of “white knighting” for her just based on what I’ve said, but that’s not what it is at all. They have their place. They’re playing their separate parts with as little suspicion as possible, and even they don’t know know what they intend to do to help to other or if they can be a help to one another. They don’t get a chance to discuss this. These are just wishful thoughts of idealistic teenagers who wants to do something good for someone they fee deserves it.
There’s some care there for the fate of the other, but mainly, they understand they have to make it out on their own. And if anyone is trying to be the “white knight” of this story it is definitely Sudasa. Both Sudasa and Kiran knows that life outside of Koyanagat may not be better, but they believe they’ll be allowed to be more than just a man and a woman whose only purpose is to produce female heirs. They’ll be allowed to be people, to have dreams, to live as they see fit. The ending of this story is what kind of made me get emotional because it leaves Kiran and Sudasa’s fate up to the readers.
Now, what I didn’t care for in this book is how vague everything seemed. There’s not much detail for most of the surrounding or people . Some of the clothes are described, but very simply. I would’ve loved more detail in this story. Some of the side stories that tied into the main story felt a little disjointed and out of place. I definitely see where Bodger was trying to go with some of these side stories, but they didn’t segue well into the main story. I didn’t like there’s obviously so much politicking going on behind the scenes and as I mentioned the society itself seems built on anger toward men, but we don’t really get to explore than beyond a short rant from Sudasa’s grandmother. I know a child wouldn’t know everything, but there was just something missing that I needed t make a true impact for me.
That might’ve made me give the book just a tad lower rating, but the way the story was told was just so beautiful. I couldn’t begrudge it for those things. I absolutely adored how Sudasa’s and Kiran’s chapters were told.
Sudasa’s chapters are told in free verse where you get lines like:
Have to wait my turn. Have to follow the rules. Have to smile like I agree. Have to Have to Have to Have to Choose him.
Kiran’s chapters are told in prose:
The president is not at all like the powerful icon I imagined her to be. She’s more like I remember Amma: small and delicate with a sari that dances behind her as she walks. Of course, the president is clad in white, the color that shows eternal mourning of a lost child, while Amma never wore white. She wore reds and oranges and deep greens. Colors of celebration, of happiness. Perhaps she wears white now. Now that I am dead to her.
It’s kind of ironic how their chapters are told. Sudasa’s in a clipped tone that can’t always find its words. She loves poetry, but sometimes, it just seems more like she doesn’t know what to say about her situation, about her family life, about what’s going on around her. So, she expresses it in the simplicity of verse. There’s so much beating in her heart and mind, but it’ll only come out in short, powerful phrases. Kiran, on the other hand, is a simple farmer’s son, but his chapters betray a busy, intelligent mind, as well, one that is verbose and full of ideas and hopes for his people as well himself.
Still, I wished for a little more from this book. There was so much more impact that it could’ve made, but it was still a beautiful read.
Again, a review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Children's via Netgalley. All opinions stated here are my own. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me this opportunity....more
This book spans the relationship of two girls -- the wealthy Caitlin and the underprivileged Vix. This follows them from the summer of 1977 to the sumThis book spans the relationship of two girls -- the wealthy Caitlin and the underprivileged Vix. This follows them from the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1996. Cait and Vix meet in school when Cait asks Vix to accompany her to her father's house in the Vineyard. After that, Caitlin's life was never the same again. Vix is smart, observant, maybe even a little shy while Caitlin is vivacious, outgoing, and opinionated.
Most of the book is told from Vix's POV with subchapters from some of the supporting characters POV. However, Caitlin never gets a subchapter. We're left to figure her out from Vix's reactions to her and the reactions of the other characters. Caitlin gets a lot of reaction for her "don't care" attitude.
This book is about so much more than the relationship between two friends. It also focused on the complexities of relationships between women, women and men, between parents and children, etc. And then, there's the usual growing pains mixed into this story making it an excellent read.
A few things that annoyed me with this story was the contrived ending. It seemed almost as if Blume was trying to make her readers feel sorry for Caitlin. I didn't. I felt more sorry for Vix.
And another personal grievance was the way that Vix kept on forgiving even when Cait did the unthinkable. I think this irked me because I know firsthand what it's like to keep forgiving a person who keeps breaking your heart.
Other than that, loved this book. I read it in one sitting. This book made me nostalgic for some of my own friends....more
This is the story of Ninah Huff, the granddaughter of the founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind. Say that threThis is the story of Ninah Huff, the granddaughter of the founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind. Say that three times fast. I dare ya! Basically, the people of the congregation spend their time striving to do the "Lord's good" while denying themselves earthly pleasures (No TV, very little free time, you get the picture) because they don't want to be stuck on earth when the good Lord comes back. To avoid earthly sins, the members of the church are known to inflict pain upon themselves such as sleeping on nettles or walking on pecan shells.
The story is also told from Ninah's POV. She's a young girl struggling with religion and life in general. She questions what she is being taught in her community, but at the same time, she feels ashamed and guilty of the changes going through her -- particularly her attraction to a boy named James. Despite, Ninah and James's efforts to avoid temptation and sin, the two come together in the biblical sense, and the outcome tears their little community apart.
I thought this was a very beautiful story following the trials and tribulations of not only a teenager growing up under such strict beliefs but the desires of the heart and flesh, the questioning of religious beliefs. Ninah makes such a transition in this story. She goes from a timid teenage girl to a young woman who knows her heart and believes that God's love comes from more than just pain. She finds strength when so many obstacles stood in her way. She forces a community to change, to face it's hypocrisy, and above all, Ninah finds a sense of self.
I also loved the characters in this book. They were so beautifully drawn out. You could imagine them vividly. Everyone from Ninah to Corinthian, the woman who the community considers a backsliding whore. You feel for these people. You can probably think of people who share some similar attributes. Maybe not as religious, but we all know drama-queens and people who strive to please others.
Ninah's story is so heart-wrenching, but beautifully written. I could not put this book down, and I already want to read it again. All I have to say to that is, "Whee, Jesus."...more
I gave into temptation after seeing the ads for the movie all over Goodreads. Wow, what a story. I wouldn't say this was a hard story to read, but mucI gave into temptation after seeing the ads for the movie all over Goodreads. Wow, what a story. I wouldn't say this was a hard story to read, but much of it is dreary. This book takes place during a time when women were only seen as vestibules to bear children--particularly sons. Other than that, their lives were "worthless," and they were often viewed as another mouth to feed for their husbands' families.
Living life under strict patriarchal codes, women were not allowed to air their grievances. They were encouraged to accept their lot in life and believe that everything that happened to them was their own doing, something they deserves. They were taught that they only achieved perfection through pain. However, these woman created a secret language used to convey their true feelings to one another.
This books follows the journey of two women whose spent their lives as loatongs (old sames)--women paired together to be the emotional pillars to each other that their husbands could not be for them. Their history together is painful, and their relationship poignantly illustrates the ever shifting face of female relationships.
Women, and our relationships with one another, are such complicated things. Even though this story takes place during a time long before women had many rights, some things remain true. Some of the same tricks they used then, we use now. We still share so many of the same fears, hopes, aspirations, etc. These things still affect us no matter our races, geographical locations, social statuses. Beautiful story....more
Astrid Magnussen's mother, Ingrid, is strong, self-relying, and unsympathetic to weakness of any kind. She also has strong rules against love and theAstrid Magnussen's mother, Ingrid, is strong, self-relying, and unsympathetic to weakness of any kind. She also has strong rules against love and the way it should be properly handled. Ingrid is Astrid's world, everything she knows she learned from her mother, but she finds herself teaching herself to survive when her mother kills a lover (whom her mother falls in love with, breaking every rule she ever had) who tossed her aside.
I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. I watched the movie first and liked it. I was pretty much willing to accept what had been told in the movie, but I am glad that I finally read the novel. It was hard to put this book down. The reader follows Astrid from innocence to maturity. We also see her progress from being the doting daughter to the cynical teen who loves and hates her mother at the same time.
She does a lot of growing up in her foster homes, and she learns many things that aid her in the struggle to survive. Ingrid still plays a vital role in Astrid's life even though she's in prison. Ingrid is literally Astrid's world even in the confines of prison. She can still manipulate Astrid's life, even though Astrid tries to prevent that from happening.
Astrid and Ingrid's relationship is a complex one even to be a mother-daughter relationship. I didn't agree with some of the decisions that Astrid and her mother made, but life isn't perfect, why should this book be? Issues abound in this book from women's issues, maternal issues, mother-daughter issues, etc.
Note: Old review that I'm importing from an old book blog....more
I'm not sure what I can say about this book without giving away too much of the plot. Everything I want to say seems like a potential spoiler, but I'lI'm not sure what I can say about this book without giving away too much of the plot. Everything I want to say seems like a potential spoiler, but I'll try.
Delores Price spends the early part of childhood in a sort of childish bliss. She somewhat oblivious to the problems her parents are having. It only matters that they're somewhat well-off. Then, Delores's parents divorce and she spends the next few years of her life sitting in front of the television and eating junk food to combat her problems.
Delores is like any other teen. She just wants to be accepted and liked. She admires movie stars, she likes music and guys, but she's not accepted because she's fat. Kids at school bully her (and that's the least of her worries), but instead of fighting back, she retreats into a world of overeating and the television.
I heard some people say that Lamb can't write women. I beg to differ. He wrote women exceptionally well in my opinion. Books rarely make me cry, but this one caused me to tear up quite a few times. Delores emotions, her failures, her successes were so true, so believable, as you follow Delores through tragedy after tragedy.
Note: Old review that I imported from an old book blog....more
Tess's father, Mr. Durbeyfield, is jokingly told by a minister that his family is the direct lineage of an old, noble family that was once thought toTess's father, Mr. Durbeyfield, is jokingly told by a minister that his family is the direct lineage of an old, noble family that was once thought to be completely gone. There's nothing left of the family's land and fortune, except the family name (d'Urberville).
However, Mr. Durbeyfield and his wife see this as a chance to move up on the social ladder. They devise a plan to send their daughter to become acquainted with a rich woman who's last name is d'Urberville. From then on, Tess is left to try to maintain her dignity and honor and to pick up the pieces of her broken life that resulted from her parents' need to be important.
This was my first time reading anything by Thomas Hardy. I was warned that he was cynical man, and I'll agree that Hardy's prose is cynical, yet heartrending. I couldn't help feeling bad for Tess through all her troubles. This is not a happy novel. For a moment, you think that things will get better for Tess, but the fates seem to be against her.
The landscape of the novel changes with the mood of what's happening. The land itself almost seems to be a living person that he described. He uses vivid, beautifully described imagery to describe people and places in his novels. There are themes of theology (Hardy had internal conflicts with believing in God), virtue, the boundaries of love. He employs everything from Greek mythology to modern (or what was modern in his day) poetry.
There are no illusions of a happily-ever-after in this story. This was simply a beautiful novel, a novel that portrays its female heroine as the strong woman she was. She could put more modern women heroines to shame....more
This is the story of a future dystopia where women are treated as second-rate citizens with no rights and a choosen few, the handmaids, are only valueThis is the story of a future dystopia where women are treated as second-rate citizens with no rights and a choosen few, the handmaids, are only valued because of their ability to conceive children. The women are separated into classes, but still the women in this story have been robbed of their voices and their rights.
Women no longer have sovereignty over their bodies. They are no longer allowed to read, own property, money, anything. The story is told through the eyes of Offred, a handmaid, who can still remember the time before.
The handmaid's job is to bear children for the Commanders and their Wives. They're seen as "valued assests" of their country, but it's obvious that most of the other women in the society, especially the wives see them as nothing more than whores.
These women are brainwashed, led to believe that many things we see as an assault on women, such as rape, is really the women's fault. They wanted it. They deserved what they got. It's horrifying reading about these women being treated like animals.
While the story is largely about the handmaids, Offred's observations of the other women in the society show you that they're really all trapped, regardless of status. They're all treated second-rate, yet instead of banding together, they buy into the propaganda that women should be seen and not heard.
Offred doesn't just tell the story of the handmaids. She tells the story of her life before becoming a handmaid, how she became a handmaid, people she remembered in her life before, the way life was before. It's all intricately woven together in one tale.
I haven't read a story in a long time that's haunted and chilled me like this story. I'm an avid horror reader, but the story of this society really disturbed me. It left me with a lot to think about, and the ending itself was haunting....more
A group of neighborhood boys are obsessed with the Lisbon sisters who begin a downward spiral after the suicide of their sister, Cecilia. The girls hoA group of neighborhood boys are obsessed with the Lisbon sisters who begin a downward spiral after the suicide of their sister, Cecilia. The girls hold some sort of feminine mystique over the boys, something about them enthralls the boys, even though the boys know that they're not perfect.
They immerse themselves in the sisters' lives, collecting things left behind from to live through them. It went much farther than just teenage infatuation. The story is told in the collective voice of the boys' view of the sisters and their lives up until their eventual suicides.
I enjoyed this, not quite as much as Middlesex, but this was an enjoyable overall read. I watched the movie first when it first came out on DVD, and while I enjoyed it, I felt that so much had been left out, that that couldn't be all there was to the story, and it wasn't.
The story was a complex weave of things stemming from an overbearing mother and passive father to sex. There isn't just one thing that can be pegged for the eventual suicides of the sisters. Everything seemed to work as a whole against them, but then again, sometimes you get the feeling that it isn't the strict household or the teenage troubles that made them decide to kill themselves.
You're clued in only through the boys who really only have a limited knowledge themselves of what's going on with those girls. So, the reader is left to pick and choose what might have cause their decision.
Parts of this book did seem a little unrealistic. I think it was how sometimes the prose seemed to become too dreamy to be believable, but that may have been the effect that Eugenides was striving for. Overall, the prose was beautiful, the story touching and ominous. An excellent first novel.
Note: Old review imported from old book blog....more