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Monday, June 29, 2015

[BLOG TOUR] MICHELLE'S REVIEW: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Title: 5 to 1
Author: Holly Bodger
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publishing House: Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780385391535


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 Kirann thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


In 2054 Koyanagar, Sudasa has five boys competing for her hand in marriage. The new norm brought about by the disparity between the ratio of the sexes in India that aims to champion fairness and equality amongst the classes, never mind the fact that they were trampling on freedom and independence. But as the tests go on, Sudasa and Kiran, one of the boys forced to compete for Sudasa's hand, slowly start seeing the cracks and fissures of the new system, and both teens suddenly find themselves in a battle that's bigger than the both of them.

Because going with what society deems as the wrong choice may be their biggest undoing yet.

As soon as I opened the page and was met with Sudasa's poetry, I must admit that I immediately closed the book. In my opinion, poetry is tricky - you either love it, or you feel indifferent about it, and that night, I was not in the mood for angsty poetry that teenage characters are notorious for. But in the end, my curiosity won out as to how the author could possibly make this work, and so I found myself turning the page.

Until I found myself at the last page and being all, "Woah."

While Sudasa might come off as just another pretty, rich airhead, she is actually subtle in her rebelliousness which makes her all kinds of awesome. She isn't in your face about it because that could spell serious repercussions for her family, but she is very self-aware of herself and the events that are happening, and I liked her immensely. Sudasa is not only at war with what society expects from her, but from what she expects from herself, and that is understandably confusing for anyone.

Kiran, on the other hand, doesn't want to be chosen as some girl's husband. He's not interested in a lifetime of play and pleasure if he won Sudasa's hand. All he wants is to keep a low profile and hopefully find his mother. But when the unfairness of the competition becomes too glaring for him to ignore, Kiran - or #5, as he is called all throughout the process - starts trying to level the playing field by pulling up a few tricks and helping out his competitors.

I loved that these two teenagers were different as night and day, but there was something about these two that just worked. Sudasa finds herself intrigued by Kiran's disinterestedness not because she's vain and thinks that she's a prize or anything, but because she finds it refreshing that he doesn't see her as his golden ticket out of a life of poverty. Kiran, on the other hand, is surprised when he finds that the seemingly vapid girl was apparently not unaffected by the unfairness of the competition as well.

Bodger's 5 to 1 is a clean read in the sense that it is practically faultless in its continuity. I was skeptical as to how poetry and narration could work, but it does, and the execution is unbelievable. 

In the end, Bodger reminds her readers that there are no such things as good choices and bad choices. In the face of despair, the true power lies in making that choice for yourself.