5 to 1 – Holly Bodger
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 was super-excited to read this book, but I was a little disappointed when I finished it.
5 to 1 is set in a futuristic Indian society. There are five boys for every one girl, so when a girl turns seventeen, a group of boys compete for the chance to marry her. It’s basically a dystopian version of The Bachelorette. The winning boy gets to marry the girl, and the losers are sent to guard the wall around the city, where most of them die. The story is told from duel perspectives. Sudasa’s chapters are in free verse and Kiran’s are in prose.
There are some elements of the book that I love. First, it’s a beautiful book. The cover and the illustrations at the beginnings of the chapters are gorgeous. Also, it’s a really quick read. I got through it in a few hours. I like the Indian setting—it’s something that I haven’t seen before in a dystopia. The mixture of poetry and prose is an unusual way to tell the story, and most of the poetry is very well-written.
The greatest thing about this book: No romance! None at all. I’m not a huge romance-lover, so I’m always excited when I find a young adult book that isn’t romance-based.
Even though there are elements of the book that I love, I still have a lot of issues with it. I think it would have benefitted from being much, much longer. The story is rushed and underdeveloped. I don’t feel like I know either of the narrators. All Sudasa and Kiran really talk about is how much they hate the government of their city, but I don’t feel like I understand the government either. The reader does get to see some aspects of Indian culture, but there isn’t much world-building at all. For me to believe this dystopian society, I needed a lot more background information about the city and how it came to exist.
This story had the potential to be awesome, but there were just too many missed opportunities for me. It’s an entertaining read, but I wanted a lot more depth and development.