Birthmarked

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BIRTHMARKED by Carragh O'Brien

Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, a midwife who dutifully delivers at least three babies a month and hands them over to the Enclave, a community within walls where the children are adopted and live with conveniences which are not available to the outside world, begins to question her loyalty to the group after her mother is brutally taken away from her by the people she serves.

From the Publisher: In a dystopian future, the world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone and her mother, who live outside. Gaia has always believed that it was their duty as midwives to periodically hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia's mother is taken away by the very people she serves so dutifully, Gaia is forced to wonder whether unquestioning service to the Enclave is everything she's been taught to believe.

It’s been 300 years since Lake Michigan became Unlake Michigan; the “cool age” is only hazily known to residents of Wharfton, a small village that sits alongside the walled city of the Enclave. Gaia is 16 and works in Western Sector Three with her mother delivering babies, “advancing” the first three per month to live a better life inside the city. It’s a wrenching routine Gaia doesn’t question until her parents are mysteriously arrested by Enclave authorities. Gaia’s rescue attempt is fraught with peril—the burn scar on her face marks her as a “freak” who would never be allowed into the Enclave’s exclusive gene pool—and soon she herself is tossed into a cell with other female physicians. Although the setup suggests speculative fiction, O’Brien’s concerns are corporeal; her impulsive and spirited heroine (who even resists, yes, romance) is the kind readers adore. The facts behind inbreeding and the numerous birthing scenes will give this an added appeal to science-minded teens. Continual revelations push this toward an ending that hints at more to come.
Horn Book (Fall 2010)

As apprentice to her midwife mother, Gaia is expected to "advance" a quota of babies for adoption into the Enclave. When her parents are taken for questioning about the adoptions, Gaia and a rebel soldier challenge the Enclave's authority. With high tension and higher stakes, this dystopian thriller projects a bleak future, but one in which individual choices do have great power.
Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2010)

A gated community on the banks of a dried-up Great Lake. A disfigured teen midwife. A baby quota. And, in grand dystopic tradition, the story of the moment the idyllic dream shatters and the ugly truth is revealed. Within the walls life is easy, but those outside live in poverty (although the descriptions are rather bucolic) and must trade their infants for food, water and privilege. When the Enclave arrests her mother, Gaia must penetrate the walls and foment a revolution even as she falls for the Protectorat's son. Despite the occasionally formulaic plot points, this offers some original elements: Genetics and medical knowledge play a large role. Serious science-fiction fans will find the world confusing (what is the source of raw resources? where do they manufacture things? how exactly are the films that opiate the masses being produced?), but most will enjoy the engaging heroine and the struggle against a corrupt government. In the end, Gaia must flee to fight another day in the sequels; most readers will contentedly follow. (Science fiction. 12 & up)
Library Media Connection (May/June 2010)

From the first chapter entitled ?The Baby Quota,? the author has the reader?s attention. 16-year-old Gaia has to deliver a baby by herself because her midwife mother is out on another call. Worse still, she has to turn the baby over to the Enclave, which claims the first three babies born each month in this poverty stricken village outside the Wall. Gaia discovers that her mother and father have been arrested, and she is given a secret code. She rescues a baby from its dead mother, and begins her struggle with the concept of whether the Enclave is a good thing or a terrible evil. All of society is divided into color-coded castes in this dystopian world which is governed by a monarchy. Gaia meets Captain Leon Grey, the handsome, adopted son of the royal family, and learns that he was an advanced baby himself; she would probably have been advanced too except for her ugly birthmark which has made her an outcast. This novel is plot driven and will appeal to a teen audience on several levels. Readers will be looking forward to the next novel in what will almost certainly be a popular series. Recommended. Barbara Foraker, Librarian, Cherokee High School, Rogersville, Tennessee
Publishers Weekly (February 15, 2010)

In her first YA novel, O'Brien creates a dystopian future in which to explore complex issues of morality and survival. In a world rocked by climate change, the Enclave is a much-needed bastion of civilization, and many of those who live outside its walls serve it in one fashion or another. As a midwife apprenticed to her mother, 16-year-old Gaia Stone is expected, like any other midwife, to bring the first three babies she delivers each month to the Enclave to satisfy its demands for new citizens. When her parents are taken for questioning by the Enclave, Gaia takes over for her mother, even though she's not entirely comfortable following orders unquestioningly anymore. Her quest to track down and save her parents leads her into the Enclave itself, where she befriends the handsome Captain Grey, a man with his own secrets, and discovers the unsettling truths behind the Enclave's need for children. Though predictable in places and unconvincing in others, this science fiction adventure is a brisk and sometimes provocative read, thanks to solid pacing, a resourceful heroine, and a few surprise twists. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal (August 1, 2011)

Gr 7 Up-At 16, Gaia performs her midwife duties solo for the first time and dutifully turns the child over to the Enclave. When soldiers of the Enclave arrest her parents and she learns that they will be executed, she begins to question everything she ever believed about her society. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.