5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (2015)

5to1A dystopian society, Indian culture, and feminist commentary combine to make this a unique read.

Recommended grade level: 7-10

Pages:  244 (for ISBN 9780385391535)

Genre(s) and keywords: dystopian, verse, diverse, Asia (India, fictionalized)

Tone/Style: bleak, determined

Pace: fast

Topics: contests, marriage, family, escape, India

Themes: choices, oppression, defiance, gender discrimination, love

Summary: In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, Koyanagar–a country severed from India–now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, and women are an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of wedding their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. But after fighting so hard for freedom against the old ways of gender selection, these women have become just as deluded as their male predecessors. Sudasa Singh doesn’t want to be a wife and Contestant Five, a boy competing to be 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. Five’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, each thwarts the other until they slowly realize that they might want the same thing. This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Five’s in prose—allowing readers to feel both characters’ pain and grasps at hope. (Source)

Who will like this book?: This book distinguishes itself from other YA dystopians by being unusually literally and steeped in Indian culture. This is a good choice for readers who like to think.  Hand this to readers who are annoyed by the romantic implausibilities of other dystopian books. It reads very quickly, so it would be a good choice for a philosophically-bent reluctant reader.

Who won’t like this book?: Since it is different from the typical dystopian, it may disappoint readers looking for the peril, resistance movements, and love triangles common to other books in the genre.

Other comments:

Sequel(s): none

Readalikes: The Giver by Lois Lowry is a similarly weighty dystopian story. Readers interested in India (the regular, non-dystopian one) should check out the work of Padma Venkatraman.

-Kylie Peters

Image: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18588998-5-to-1

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