5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

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5 to 1

by Holly Bodger

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

This is a dystopian novel that takes place in India in 2054.  Decades before, India instituted a policy similar to China’s one child policy in order to control overpopulation.  After years of families abandoning baby girls in order to have the preferred son, India now faces a severe imbalance between the sexes.  Now girls are kidnapped and sold due to their rarity.  This happens for years until a small group of women rise up and create a walled city name Koyanagar.  While the rest of India operates as before and girls are constantly scared for their futures, within the city girls are treated like royalty and boys must compete for their hand in marriage.

This novel is told from dual perspectives, one from a girl who is experiencing the competition and must choose a husband, and the other from a boy who is among the five choices the girl has for a spouse.  Although this set-up would appear to be slightly better than the alternative, the main characters reveal that for boys, their life now has very few options.  They now face: arranged marriage, deployment to fight on the wall around the city that usually results in death, or a poor existence on the outskirts of society with menial work.  It is also revealed that girls are little more than puppets who must follow the desires of their elders.  This novel reveals that regardless of which gender or group of people have power, when their is an extreme imbalance in that power the happiness of many is sacrificed for the power of a few.

Review:  This is an extremely short read.  I finished it all in one sitting, and may be part of the reason I didn’t connect with it as much as I had hoped.  This is a really intriguing premise and I think that Bodger was really effective in using very realistic circumstances to show how this dystopian society came into existence.  The main disappointment I had in this novel was the lack of attention to detail.  Indian culture is so beautiful and unique, I would have loved to hear more about the characters’ setting and cultural practices.  I also think it is important because it is one of the many cultures that is underrepresented in YA literature.  A longer more fleshed out novel would have boosted my experience of it so much!

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