Release Date: November 8, 2011
(Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me read this!)
Published by: Roaring Book Press
No spoilers from the first novel in my review though this summary is spoilery so watch out!
Prized (Birthmarked #2) by Caragh O'Brien
Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?
1. (+) Gaia, the Protagonist - Gaia's always a delight to read. She's incredibly mature and strong, easy to relate with. Someone comments that she seems older than she is, and it's true. She shoulders responsibility so well, and I love reading about her midwife experiences. Her perspective is so different from everything else out there in YA.
2. (+) Character Development - What I really, really love about both of Caragh O'Brien's novels is that there's such great character development. She gets this stuff right. In a way, though I later complain about the plot of this novel, the main tension feels like Gaia's finally coming into her own, and that much I do love. And in general, I love the host of characters she has brought to this novel.
3. (+) The Romance aka Love Square - I know a lot people didn't like this aspect to the novel, but I actually think it worked and is realistic here. (Me: person who hates love triangles is saying this). I can see this kind of situation happening when there is an abundance of men and they are competing for the women's attention... especially since Gaia is new and the only midwife--she would be that mysterious one people would go for. Also, Gaia's interactions with these men are all different, so it was easy to see her getting pulled in different directions. Two of the men and their affections for her were definitely necessary to advancing the plot (in that would the guys have truly done what they did had they not liked her?). The last one is a bit iffy. Her interaction with him helped the plot, but was it necessary for them to have feelings for each other? Not quite sure. Regardless, though, I think it also helped that Gaia laughed at the absurdity of the situation--the love square as she calls it--and that it was well-written and with likable characters.
4. (+) The Idea - The idea of this sounds amazing. Not amazing in the sense that I would wish for it--just that it sounds so creative. A society with women ruling and a shortage of men and there's varying levels of societal organization for both men and women based on fertility and hell, a kiss is considered attempted rape? I don't know; I just really loved the way things played out in this society. It seemed like Ms. O'Brien planned all the details so well, making sure they fit.
5. (--) The Plot (Sequel? Felt more like a companion novel) - But at the same time.... another dystopian society? Another scientific mystery for Gaia to solve? It just didn't feel like a sequel at all. This book had its own plot and was so disjointed from the first that it really should have just been a companion novel (the only connector was the emotional consequences of the first novel (i.e. Gaia's grief over what happened in Birthmarked but there were no plot connectors)). Gaia had her past and there were a few other elements brought forward from Birthmarked but other than that? No climbing tension because of the plot from the first book. And I can't really predict how the third novel will turn out. Based off these, though, there will probably be yet another scientific dilemma that Gaia and others will need to solve but hopefully all three will connect better than these two had; hopefully, the new dilemma will join together the ones which were in the first and second books.
6. (+) Elements from the First Book - I did really love the parts that Ms. O'Brien chose to bring from Birthmarked into Prized. I don't want to spoil the book for you so I won't say which elements were brought, but they worked well for the story I think.
7. (+/-) Villain - I'm not really sure how I feel about the villain. On one hand, it's good to have a villain who feels like a real person and who really believes in her cause, but on the other, the villain was defeated so easily, it seemed. She did not seem cruel enough. In Birthmarked, the villains were both cruel and hard to escape; there were several scenes with them. The villain here in Prized felt less... antagonistic... and there were fewer obstacles than I had hoped.
8. (+) The Writing - As usual, Caragh O'Brien's writing is wonderful and easy to read. There were a few times when I questioned whether or not Gaia, who O'Brien says cannot read all too well, would know such big words, but other than that, her writing is very pleasurable.
9. (+) The Pacing - What's funny is that when I read Birthmarked, I hated the pacing. I think I'm okay with it this time around because I already expected it. There's a certain consistency to O'Brien's writing. If you liked it in Birthmarked, you'll surely like it in Prized. Same goes for pacing of the stories.
10. (+/-) The Cover - I think this cover and the new cover for Birthmarked look nice together, but I'm not really sure what is on this cover. (To be honest, I'm not quiet sure why the book is even named Prized. Birthmarked made sense; it was basically what drew the book together. But what exactly is the prize? Maya? Gaia becoming her own?)
Prized by Caragh O'Brien was an enjoyable read for its great protagonist, romance, and character development but a disappointment as a sequel. I still cannot fathom why it is the second book in a trilogy rather than a companion novel. (Perhaps it would've been better had the main character been Maya instead of Gaia. I'm not sure if it could be called a companion novel if it has the same MC).