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Birthmarked is the first YA novel for author Caragh M. O’Brien. It’s also one of the those books that will be very hard for me to summariaze for you, because it was so desperately good and so full of twists that I’m afraid of giving anything, even the teeniest thing, away and spoiling it for you!!! We Bibliophiles have to help each other out and make sure our personal reading experience is undefiled by any “spoiling”!

So first I will give a very basic, dry bones sort of description to whet your appetite.

Here goes: Birthmarked is a stunning sci-fi YA that breaks your heart, takes your breath away, and keeps you turning pages long into the night. It’s main character, sixteen-year-old Gaia, is amazingly believable and relatable, and strong, yet sweet. Birthmarked is a story about a horrifying dystopia, and entertains and thrills constantly.

Okay, what do you think? No details about the plot – no real analysis of any kind. I strongly suggest that if this is your kind of book and you’re intrigued that you read no further and just read Birthmarked as soon as it comes out on March 30th. I won’t give anything away in my review that isn’t given away in the inside jacket cover, but I still encourage my fellow Bibliophiles to simply read it without any further knowledge, with my full recommendation behind it.

If you need a bit more to convince you, here goes:

Gaia has lived with her mother and father her whole life outside the Enclave, the walled area of privilege that the outsiders only get to see on the Tvalter (a sort of community TV) specials, a place of education and wealth. Her scar has made her an outsider among even her peers outside the Enclave, but she has found happiness with her parents and her apprenticeship as a midwife with her mother. Every month three babies, per midwife, born outside the Enclave are “advanced” to receive all the things those who are not “advanced” do not receive (wealth, colored clothing, education). Gaia has never questioned this, believing it to be duty. But when Gaia’s parents are suddenly arrested and taken inside the Enclave to face charges, without any explanation given to Gaia, she begins to delve deeper into the secrets of the Enclave to save her parents.

As you can see, there’s a lot of heavy stuff in Birthmarked. The plot is rich and full of possibilities right from the start, which is always promising. I was stunned and immediately yanked on the sometimes-painful journey Birthmarked takes you on.

Without giving anything else away, I will say that I really loved this book. I thought it was highly original, suspenseful, and the characters (even the background characters) were so fully formed, realistic and dynamic that I was really blown away. There is an undeniable slow build (if you can really call it a “slow” build) to a shocking climax at the end, where my heart was literally racing.

However, I will say that the end did disappoint me a little. Don’t get me wrong – it was great and I still LOVED the book and WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend it, but the end… it felt familiar. You tell me when you read it, but it reminded me of another book (can’t tell ya which one of course!). I was surprised, since Birthmarked is so unique.

But despite that small complaint, I thought Birthmarked was quite exquisite – a fantastic addition to my sci-fi shelf, a book I will most certainly reread.

And I am left frantically hoping for a sequel!!!


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