I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
Published by Random House Children's Books on May 12th 2015
Genres: Asia, Dystopian, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Girls & Women, People & Places, Social Issues, Young Adult
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Part Homeless Bird and part Matched, this is a dark look at the near future told through the alternating perspectives of two teens who dare to challenge the system. In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. Sudasa, though, doesn't want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing. This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view--Sudasa's in verse and Kiran's in prose--allowing readers to experience both characters' pain and their brave struggle for hope.
I love reading books where the story feels completely new and not like the same thing over and over and over again. Holly Bodger’s 5 To 1 is one of those books where I feel like the concept is totally unique and where I feel as though there is something special about the book I am reading. I was so into 5 To 1 that I finished it within hours, quickly paging through on my Kindle to unravel Sudasa and Kiran’s story while also getting a firm grasp on the world and setting.
5 To 1 is set in the year 2054 in India. FYI — there are not nearly enough dystopias about non-white people that I am aware of. This book needs to be trumpeted. Anyways, at this time, gender selection has lead to an imbalance of the sexes. For every five boys there is one girl, which makes repopulation quite difficult. Actually, this element of the book reminded me of those Among The Hidden books by Margaret Peterson Haddix — that’s another book where there is a population law. So, anyways, the two main characters, Sudasa and Kiran live in the walled city of Koyanagar. There girls are valued and being a female means you are given things by the state as opposed to boys who are a dime a dozen. Sudasa is of age which means that five boys will compete for her hand in marriage through a series of tests and games. Kiran is one of those competitors. He’s not really into Sudasa, but he has a plan. A head’s up — there is zero romance in this book, so don’t get disappointed at the lack of slow burns and kissing.
Sudasa’s name means obedient, according to the book. However, she’s not quite obedient. I mean, mostly her actions are. Yet, within her beats a rebel heart. A heart that longs for something different and something more than Koyanagar. In fact, Sudasa has lived a relatively privileged life. Her sister is the face of this public campaign about being a good girl. Her father used to be famous. Her family has lived in the lap of luxury. Her grandmother, Nani, was even part of Koyanagar’s history and a part of the games. That’s why Sudasa feels a bit of shock and disappointment when one of the competitors is her cousin – a spoiled, indolent young man who was raised in the lap of luxury as well. Sudasa does not want to marry her cousin, yet it is as though she has no choice.
In contrast with Sudasa and her privileged life is Kiran. Kiran is number five out of the five boys competing for her hand in marriage. Kiran has lived a life next to sea, working for all that he has. He lives with his father. His mother ran away and crossed over the wall leaving Kiran and his father behind. This means that Kiran has this yearning to know what exactly happened to his mother. He feels that competing in the marriage games will get him an answer. The thing that I liked about Kiran is that despite not having any wealth, he is honorable and noble.
What felt unique about Holly Bodger’s 5 To 1 is that the book is written using both free verse and prose. Sudasa’s chapters employ free verse which make sense because she loves poetry in all it’s forms. She’s elegant and intelligent, sort of like the writing form her chapters take on. As for Kiran, his chapters are told using prose. His chapters are fairly action oriented and maybe not as elegant and lovely as Sudasa’s. Creatively, I think that this writing decision really works well for the story. I loved how this book was written and just the whole experience of reading it.