5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
Rating: 3 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "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."
Review: I'd like to start out by giving a virtual high five to whoever did the cover art for this book. That mehendi graphic art is really lovely.
Okay. This book. I have so many mixed emotions about this story. I thought the premise was really compelling, which is why I picked it up in the first place. I've always thought that the idea of a matriarchal society was worth exploring, since there are nearly zero of such societies in real life. I believe that any society that favors one sex as the ruling class over the other is inherently flawed, but I was interested in seeing the challenges and unique side effects of a female-driven world. I was curious in Sudasa's and Kiran's lives, what made them tick, and how they failed to fit into their world. When I began reading, I was really looking forward to seeing how the themes of equality, freedom, and choice were explored in this story. I was so excited when I started, because I knew that this book could be awesome.
Maybe my expectations were too high, but, to me, the execution of all those clever ideas felt mediocre at best. The first thing that threw me was the immediate discovery that all of Sudasa's chapters were written in verse. I am torn between giving props to Bodger for her outside-the-box thinking, and shaking my head, since, frankly, it didn't work. I like poetry, don't get me wrong. (In fact, one of my favorite books of the year is a book of poetry.) But the verse style in this book did nothing to add to the story. Her chapters were just regular old chapters, just with oddly placed enjambment and a whole lot of white space. It was more distracting than complementary.
Kiran's chapters were thankfully free of verse. As a result, I was able to more easily get lost inside his head,
Bodger decided to
I will say, though, that this book is an extremely quick read. It kept my attention, and I wanted to know how it would end. I appreciated that the focus was on the characters in this unique world, not on a romance. In fact, I'd venture to say that there really isn't a romance at all in this story. It's just a group of people who have varying kinds of relationships with each other, and who learn from each other along the way.
So there was a lot of good and bad. I loved Sudasa's father. I felt like the world-building was poorly-executed. I thought many of the side characters could have been interesting, if only they had had more than one brief conversation with anyone in the book. I read a review that said that this book had too narrow a lens through which we experienced this world, and I think they nailed the problem. There was so much that could have been discussed. So many questions that could have been explored. But, in the end, it just felt like there were a lot of missed opportunities.
To be fair, I really did enjoy reading. This story was unique and interesting, even though I wish it delved a lot deeper. Sudasa and Kiran were sympathetic characters, and I liked spending time with them. But I wanted more than I was given. A lot more. And while I did like this book, I am also frustrated by it, since it didn't come anywhere near its potential.
Review in a GIF:
Bottom Line: This is a great idea, with not-so-great execution. I mostly feel like this book was a missed opportunity. I wanted a lot more than I was given. I enjoyed reading it, but not enough to widely recommend.