Holly Bodger’s 5 to 1 is YA Dystopia Done Right

Holly Bodger’s 5 to 1 is YA Dystopia Done Right

If you’ve been reading YA for a while, you might feel like you have seen all that the genre has to offer, but you really haven’t until you’ve read 5 to 1.  The title is a play on the male to female ratio in this future world where the fallout for selective birth has hit India hard.  It is also a play on the numbers of the two potential husbands who are competing for the privilege of marrying one of those precious, powerful girls.  Don’t expect romance, but there are still swoon worthy moments in this gem.  


Goodreads 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, though, 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. 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. 

My Thoughts

5 to 1 has an intriguing premise, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Sudasa must choose a husband, one that will give her daughters, in a future where selective reproduction has made girls very valuable.  Kieran knows his plan to avoid being chosen as a husband is foolproof.  He has a bigger plan in mind.  Both of them are faced with an impossible decision when the obvious choice for Sudana proves himself to be the worst.  One of them will have to sacrifice a dream to make the other happy, but you won’t puzzle it out until the very end.  Told in altering narratives, this beautifully written book manages to convey all the longing and sacrifice of two characters living under rules that chafe and bind.  Sudana’s narrative is written as poetry, and I hate books written in poetry, but this poetry can easily be read like prose, and it might have changed my mind about exactly what I hate in books.  Both of the main characters express universal feelings that will draw in the intended audience easily, and I liked them both for their ability to see the faults in a system that failed to balance an earlier evil.  This is a fast read (I clocked in just under two hours), but it packs a punch.  The story covers the three days of testing that lead up to Sudana’s choice.  It is well paced and I was utterly captivated by both the story and the writing, so I read it straight through.  This is a different take on the dystopian genre, and it was a great one.  It is definitely a smart way to introduce a social issue and a diverse culture to YA readers.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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