Image Credit: http://www.amazon.com/5-1-Holly-Bodger/dp/0385391536
Started: October 18, 2015
Finished: October 19, 2015
Genre/#Category: YA/Dystopian/Poetry Prose/Narrative Prose
Published: May 2015
Awards: None YET
Pages: 244 pages
Themes: Totalitarianism, Oppression, Will to Survive
Rating: 4+ Stars
Age/Interest Range: 7th Grade and Up
India, 2054. Females are outnumbered by males, 1 to 5 as a result of gender selection laws that backfired three generations ago. Through the years, the valuable women of Koyanagar have found a way to dominate, and by so doing, implemented a 5-day spouse selection process that takes place annually, on a stage in front of an audience.
The purpose of this spouse selection process is to (APPEAR to) give all boys a chance for marriage, despite social caste.
The story is told in two different formats, by two separate people. Sudusa is a young girl and it is now her turn to chose a husband. Her words appear in beautiful narrative poetry prose. Sudusa means “Obedient” and although she seems to be this, her inner voice is anything but. Her grandmother is a head political figure, and Sudusa is expected to behave a certain way, and to select a certain caliber of husband. …Even though her selection is (SUPPOSE TO BE) by chance.
All Sudusa wants is to NOT be apart of the illusion any longer.
Kiran’s viewpoint is told in a narrative format, but not in prose. He comes from a low caste, and has been selected as one of the 5 boys to compete for Sudusa’s hand in marriage. He does not want to win; He wants something better for himself than to JUST be a husband to a spoiled girl. He finds this competition humiliating and unfair.
Kiran knows he’s just on stage as a prop.
One of Kiran’s competitors is Sudusa’s distant cousin. Sudusa knows that her political head figure grandmother has set this up – another contributing factor toward the illusion of choice. By marrying her cousin, Sudusa’s grandmother’s debt will be paid.
Debt being paid with a girl? Girls are still being used as money and leverage. This was the very thing the selection process was suppose to eliminate!
The opposing viewpoints of Sudusa and Kiran are also split into Parts. Parts denote the five days of the competition (i.e. Day 1, Day 2). Sudusa’s prose voice is written with onomatopoeias and shadowed fonts, all to show emphasis. This is the exact opposite of Kiran’s narrative. His is plain, nothing fancy. This dramatic affect mirrors their place in society.
As the competition comes to a close these two realize they have more in common than they originally thought. But, does that mean they should marry?
Selflessness is a commodity in limited supply in the country of Koyanagar. With some unexpected support, Kiran and Sudusa just may get a life of their choosing.
Overall Literary Merit: HIGH
Classroom Possibilities: This is most definitely junior high/high school library and classroom library worthy! The title provides perfect examples of how format can take a story deeper, make a tale more interesting, and assist character development. This is Holly Bodger’s first attempt at YA literature; Sharing her story with students could prove motivating to aspiring writers. Additionally, Bodger’s website if full of helpful classroom info! Check it out – http://hollybodger.com/teachers/