Book Review: Prized (Birthmarked #2) by Carah M. O'Brien

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

Release Date: November 8, 2011
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased

This was my favorite book in the Birthmarked trilogy!  It had none of the middle-book slump I was expecting.  I've noticed that dystopian series seem to have more of a slump in the middle books than other genres.  (Crossed by Ally Condie and Insurgent by Veronica Roth immediately come to mind).

But O'Brien really outdid herself with Prized.  I expected Gaia's arrival in Sylum to be sort of anticlimactic.  After all, she already escaped what she thought was the most danger she could ever be in by leaving the Enclave, and has had to cope with the traumatic and sudden loss of her parents.  She's left everyone and everything she knows behind, including Leon, to bring Mya to The Dead Forest.  But Gaia is stunned to find that Sylum comes with its own unique set of problems.  My favorite line in the book is when Gaia realizes that Sylum is just like the Enclave, except it's run by women.

I loved that Prized takes place in such a different setting than Birthmarked.  It really felt like two different worlds, and to see Gaia change and grow as a pivotal part of both worlds was neat.  She makes some hard decisions in Prized, some of which I did not agree with, but the tough situations all serve as opportunities for character growth.

I am not always a fan of love triangles.  Prized had something different: a love square with Gaia and the three men who love her.  That was almost too much but turned out to be very unique and well-handled.  Gaia suddenly goes from being an outcast to being a very desirable and attractive person in the eyes of the men of Sylum.  This was quite a turn-around from how she was viewed in Birthmarked!  In some cases, the love square felt like lust over love, and at other times, I knew that Gaia's love interests really loved her for who she was.  Leon's coldness towards Gaia just killed me, until he finally revealed how he really felt.

Gaia's decision at the end of the book was my favorite part of the story.  I love how she grows into a leader, and starts to set things to right for the men of Sylum.

Overall, I really loved Prized.  I was so glad that I already had Promised on hand, because the books in this series end on mini-cliffhangers.  I can't wait to find out how it all ends in Promised!   

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