What worked: I'm usually not a fan of novels that alternate between prose and verse but in this case it works. Why? It shows Sudasa and Kiran's struggles, conflicts, and pain at being pawns of an Utopian society's plan to control who will live or die. It's especially hard when they see the 'truth' behind the so-called perfect society which involves corruption.
This story is kind of like a reverse HANDMAIDEN'S TALE only the boys are used for one purpose only--to help their future brides have only girl babies. The days when girls were the unwanted ones are long gone. Now it's the boys that are unwanted or desired. The author does a great job showing the reversal of roles in haunting details.
Sudasa's pain is show best in verse. You feel her burning desire to break the terrible cycle of the tests as it takes away her choice on who to marry. It also denies her the freedom to not marry. Sudasa's compassion to those candidates that she knows don't have a chance to win shows a hidden strength to stand up to tradition even when those around her, including her grandmother, force her towards a life-time decision. Also her behavior around her creepy cousin shows some backbone when the odds are that they are fated to be together. Something she refuses to accept.
Kiran's reasons behind going through with the tests involve finding his long lost mother who left the day the gates went up to close off their community from the rest of the country. He wants nothing to do with Sudasa and hopes to lose but being around her and competing against the cousin(which has been manipulated to happen), has him think twice about his real goals. Kiran is part of the 'invisible' population where the government has men do servant work and not be a part of any government decision. Readers see how these tests aren't equal and are pitted against those too poor to bride guards and authorities. There's also rumors that if boys don't 'win', they are set to the wall to a sure death.
Powerful insight into a community where an lofty goal of righting past injustices against women is manipulated into denying freedom and choices for all. A good book club candidate that is sure to fuel discussions on Utopian societies where roles have been exchanged with painful consequences.