Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

5 to 1 
by Holly Bodger 
Read: April 29 - May 2, 2015
May 12, 2015 by Knopf BYR (RH)
Source: Galley from publisher (THANK YOU, RH!)
Category: YA, dystopian, India, over population, 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound 

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 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. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Kiran’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. 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.

I am always amazed when authors are able to create a world, unfold a plot and draw out strong emotions from the spare words of a verse novel. I wasn't sure what to expect in 5 to 1, but I ended up loving the dual narrative format. Sudasa speaks in verse, and it fits her love of poetry and her increasing feeling of being fractured between obedience to her expected roles and the life she wants for herself. Kiran's voice is in prose and it is more steady and certain, but also more angry and less careful, despite how carefully he's determined to follow his plan. 

This book takes place in a country called Koyanagar in the year 2052, somewhere in what was India. Boys in this society outnumber girls of a rate of 5 to 1, and because of that, women are valuable and men must compete for the opportunity to wed them. When I started this book, I thought that no way would our world have a society like this at so recent a point in the future. But then I remembered that there are many countries in the world where the rules for men, and especially women are very different. After that I could see they way that Koyangar was formed: with over population leading to rules about numbers of children, and then gender selection and finally a pushback against all of that. This society was set up to protect and venerate women, but if it traps them - and the men - to accomplish that task, is it actually benefitting anyone at all? I liked the overall message of having the courage and freedom to choose your own path, and allowing others to do the same. 

This book isn't really a romance. It takes place over a short time and the two main characters hardly interact face to face, although they are in the same room as each other for most of the book. But I love the way that Sudasa and Kiran's stories overlap and inform each other, and I could see similarities in their desire for truth and freedom that would make them a great ship if given the opportunity.

Assuming this remains a standalone, it reminds me a lot of dystopians like The Giver, which are less about revolutions and overthrowing societies and more about one person's awakening to the truth of their world, and then what personal decisions they make because of that knowledge. I've gotten tired of revolutions, so I actually really liked this. I think 5 to 1 is lovely as a standalone, but I'd also like to see what happens next to Sudasa and Kiran, and to get a broader picture of the world in which they live. 

Love Triangle Factor: None - very light romance. Hints of something that could be. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone? I would love to know what's next for these characters,  but I also could be content with this conclusion. It is open ended, but still there is hope.

PS. I am headed to BEA this week! I can't wait to see many of you, and I will miss everyone who cannot be there. I'll mostly be around on twitter and instagram - come chat with me there! 


  1. I haven't heard of this book at all! While it seems plausible, it also seems impossible only because Indian society is becoming more and more liberal and accepting of women's rights and LGBTQ rights as well. Still, this seems like a really interesting idea for a futuristic society so I'm definitely going to be checking this out. Thanks for putting this on my radar, Lauren! :)

  2. Yay :D Awesome review Lauren. <3 I'm so glad you liked this book. It seem so interesting. But no romance.. sigh. Probably not a book for me just yet, lol. But one day :D Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this book sweetie. <3 So glad you liked it :)

  3. I was very nervous to read this book because I normally don't like verse novels, but yeah, the dual point of view totally worked for me too. I was sucked in without really knowing it. I would have liked more romance (duh) but then again I appreciated it for what it was and I liked the hopeful ending.
    Great review! (AND I MISS YOU ALREADY.)


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