In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. Sudasa, though, doesn't want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing. This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view-Sudasa's in verse and Kiran's in prose-allowing readers to experience both characters' pain and their brave struggle for hope.
5 to 1Featured
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.
The concept of this book was really interesting. My favourite thing was the two different styles of narration between the POVs. Sudasa’s POV was told in beautiful verse, flowing and dramatic. Kiran’s POV was in prose, more detailed, heavier. It was a good contrast and the switch between the two styles was done well.
I liked both main characters. They were very different, came from different background, but ultimately wanted the same thing. Their freedom. Sudasa never wanted to be a wife, to be pressured to have children, baby girls, marriage to her meant being put in a cage. Her grandmother was one of the founders of their city so there was a lot of pressure on Sudasa as she started her tests to determine her husband and I loved every time she threw a curve ball into it. Kiran was a farm boy and knew he was destined to be sent to protect the wall if not chosen, a fate most boys don’t come back from. But he had an escape plan and I was hoping it would work for him.
Since most of the book was set during the testing phase, it was interesting to see how the interactions between the two main characters played out. Most of the time, there were many people watching them so they could never talk openly. Their interactions were very limited, which led to confusion as to what they each thought the other wanted, what their intentions were. It was confusing to them, but as the reader, I found it easy to follow.
I do wish there had been more world-building, especially where the tests were concerned. Considering the limitations of the two POVs, teenagers not involved in politics, I understood why not a whole lot of the details were revealed but it would have been good to know more.
It was a fast read, under 250 pages, especially with one style being verse, but there was also a lot of details woven into the little amount of pages. There was no romance, which was a big change from what I was used to, and I found myself just enjoying the read.