Reread Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

Reread Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’BrienBirthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Narrator: Carla Mercer-Meyer
Length: 12 hrs, 42 mins
Series: Birthmarked #1
Published by Tantor Media on December 31, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife, Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia's mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia's choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

Caragh M. O’Brien’s Birthmarked was actually one of the very first reviews I posted on this blog when I started it. In future, much as I love blogging and reviewing new books, I hope to have more time for both rereading and completing series I’ve started and not finished, which, because of my woeful memory, will generally involve restarting. In this endeavor, I will be doing these reread review, comparing what I thought then to what I think now, as an obviously evolved reader. In this case, I also switched formats, audiobooks being easier to fit in with my current reading schedule.

What I Thought Then:
Oh boy, going back to my old reviews is humbling. My review, posted three whole days after my blog began, is a whopping two paragraphs. Here are the main points from my original review:

  • Slow, steady pace
  • Realistic characters
  • Good descriptions of places and codes, but not of people
  • More ‘traditional’ dystopia

What I Think Now:
Having reread this, I largely agree with my past self. Birthmarked certainly does have a much slower pace than the average dystopian novel, lacking both the adventure and heavy does of romance that typifies YA’s general take on the genre. I also concur with my rather simplified description of Birthmarked as a more traditional dystopian novel, meaning that it focuses more on world building than anything else, and does flip the supposed good society on its head as the heroine uncovers the secrets of the system.

Expanding further on the slow pace, O’Brien’s Birthmarked can be compared with the more recent post-apocalyptic offering Not a Drop to Drink, in the way that both follow a single girl with a fairly narrow world view. Neither girl has magical powers or is particularly remarkable. They’re not without talents or cleverness, but they’re not the MOST anything. Gaia’s skills lie in midwifery, about which O’Brien includes enough detail to sell the concept but little enough to keep an easily grossed out person like me from having to DNF.

Gaia’s atypical as well in her appearance. Unlike all the perfect heroines in the YA world, Gaia’s face is scarred from a burn obtained in childhood. Because of this, she lives outside the wall, rather than having been advanced to a more comfortable life inside. Though she’s not completely ugly, Gaia’s appearance is repellent to all but those who take the time to get to know her. She’s never been coddled or had her life made easier because of her appearance.

Birthmarked also has a strong emphasis on family. The love that Gaia’s parents have for her and she for them is obvious, even though the only moments that she spends with them are in memories or in tragic circumstances. Her family was poor but happy, even with the specter of two advanced sons hanging like pall over the family.

I find my earlier comments about the descriptions of the people versus the place puzzling. Perhaps I was once more of a visual reader than I am now, or, maybe, in print, the setting was so well described I actually could picture it, making the characters seem odd in comparison. Of course, now I’m more self-aware and I don’t tend to criticize something like that, because only the most vivid descriptions result in visual images for me as I read.

The romance element, which I did not touch on back in the day, is…alright. Both Gaia and Leon seem more taken with one another than I see much justification for, frankly. From Leon’s side, there might be reasons due to his work, and Gaia does at least know she’s an idiot for thinking about his handsome face when she knows nothing about him. I don’t feel much chemistry between them, but I’m not opposed to the ship either. What I like best is that they both remain practical, placing survival over romance in most every case, as well as retaining their personalities.

In all, I come out to about the same place on this one as I did before, though obviously much more mindfully so. Since then, I’ve read about a hundred dystopian novels, and, with that, I can say that I think this is much better than most of them, if not perfect or emotionally resonant.

Print vs. Audio:
While the audiobook was not terrible, I’m not going to recommend it as the ideal way to read Birthmarked. The performance is tolerable, I suppose, but not well done enough to tempt me into reading the latter two in audio format as well, even if that means waiting longer to get to them. Carla Mercer Meyer’s narration is decent for the most part except for two things. First, she has trouble with the letter S, and a lot of words with an S come out mushy. This is not the enunciation I expect from someone who does voice work for a living. Also, she mispronounces a handful of words throughout. The ones I caught and noted down were: mucusy (moo-cuss-e), hurriedly (her-reed-lee & her-ree-ed-lee), and sorrowfully (sour fully). Now, this is not really the narrator’s fault. This should have been caught during the initial recording process or during the editing of the audiobook, at which point she would have been brought back in to rerecord the words.

Tl;dr – Book in a GIFfy:

For the heroine: lots of stuff. For me, there are babies in this.

For the heroine: lots of stuff.
For me: there are babies in this.

2 responses to “Reread Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien”

  1. It’s fun to compare thoughts from then and now (although some older reviews make me cringe) One of the first thing I noticed is the different cover, I think I like this one better.

    I prefer my characters to not be ‘the best, the strongest, the smartest etc.’ It can make them unrealistic. So the fact that she is scarred in her face sounds interesting. It reminds me of Eon, where the MC is crippled after a hip injury.

    I need to take a look at this book 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Fairytale news 36. Upcoming fairytales.My Profile

  2. LULLLLLLLLLLLL YOU AND BABIES, I swear that’s so funny.

    I think I am over my baby fear. Everyone I know is having them and then omg someone had the cutest one the other day and it had these cheeks and I was like, I WANT ONE. But Tony does not, at least not yet. But omg, baby fever.

    Anyways.

    I LOVE RE-READS. I own this as a signed copy some place. So I should probably read it at some point.

    Hmmmm, I’ve listened to a few Tantor audiobooks. They aren’t my favorite.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Frankenstein | Mary Shelley | Audiobook ReviewMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge