Friday, May 8, 2015
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
Bodger – 5 to 1 The glowing cover of this novel is a better indicator of the content than the title: a pair of intricately painted hands hold a pair of fish. Bodger builds a dystopian world set half a century into the future where a long-standing preference for boy babies has resulted in a 5 to 1 ratio which leaves very few brides for young men. The system has gone from people in the past (our times) disposing of unwanted girl babies to a virtual captivity to breed more girls now. The men must compete, and win; the alternative is hard labor or death. A young man’s disability or injury can result in death. A kill or be killed barrier surrounds Koyanagar protecting the prized girl children in a gilded prison. The book is told in alternating points of view with Sudasa’s poems and Contestant Five writing in prose. To tell the truth, I’m not sure I would have understood what was going on at the beginning without a helpful description. Sudasa, which means “obedience,” writes in a restrained voice without giving us a great deal of information. Oh, but when we meet Contestant Five the reader is drawn into this complex story. The rulers of Koyanagar don’t play by the rules, including Sudasa’s own grandmother who works the system to get Sudasa’s smarmy arrogant cousin in the competition. By the time we are halfway through the book, the reader is compelled to follow both Sudasa and Contestant Five as we want them both to win, but win want? This is a competition where winning is really losing and the reader is pulled into this battle to the end. Nothing is quite as it seems and who can we trust? What is fair? Sudasa does not want the life her grandmother has chosen for her. For his own reasons Contestant Five does not want to win Sudasa. Both young people are fighting against this government which was meant to right a dreadful wrong, but now has tipped too far the other way into a different corruption and prejudice. Laced with the soul of poetry, this novel paints a path for the future for Sudasa and Contestant Five. This review would be incomplete without recognition for the lovely cover design by Jennifer Heuer and the chapter openings reminding us of the speaker. The fish motif illuminates the design and the story.