by Holly Bodger
The Goodreads Summary Says:
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.
5 to 1 is Holly Bodger's YA novel debut, and it was really interesting. Sort of a "Hunger Games" meets "The Selection." As the story opens, Sudasa is preparing to watch the "Trials," or the different rounds of competition that her suitors will go through to win her over. The story is told in alternating POVs between Sudasa and male "Contestant 5." Sudasa is written in beautiful verse. The text is laid out in a way that's supposed to reinforce the idea of the words (like "n#mber" instead of "number") I thought that was unique, if occasionally overused. Contestant 5 is written in prose, and had a distinct feel from Sudasa. I liked the writing, the setting was intriguing, and the tension between the characters was just right.
The only problem I had was that I wanted more of just about everything. The book is super short (I read it all in one sitting), and it almost felt like I'd read a short story instead of a novel. I liked Sudasa and Contestant 5, but I didn't really understand their motivations or their back stories. (How did they both end up so independent? Why wasn't Sudasa interested in milking her privileged female-ness for all she could?) I also wanted more from the world. The idea of a huge gender imbalance would be fun to play around with, but it wasn't explored much. And for a book set so soon in the future, it lacked influences from current Indian culture. I kept wondering why the specific tasks were part of the Trials, and what that said about the culture, and their view of what men were good for. In the end almost all of these aspects were left untouched. I enjoyed what I did get from the story, but overall would have liked more to flesh out the world and characters. The writing was good, though, and I'd definitely read another book by Holly Bodger.
Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. 5 to 1 is now available.