5 to 1

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5 to 1 is an inspiring protest for freedom and women’s rights all around the world, hidden in a fantastic and well-written book in prose and verse. It is the story of two teenagers in a society where girls have become a scarce commodity – an extreme consequence of a prior state in which families only wanted to have boy children, and had abortions to keep from having daughters. Now, social norms have flipped to the other extreme, with government designed policies intended to make it highly desirable to have girl children: People who have girls are paid a subsidy, and girls themselves live in luxury, get better education, and ultimately, better jobs. The story follows Sudasa and Five’s quests to find their way through the process of coming of age in this society – how they find each other, and ultimately, find their own path outside the constraints of the restrictive society in which they have grown up.

This is powerful and suspenseful, sweeping the reader into a river of a story that portrays the failures and successes of two resourceful individuals drowning in a situation- and a future- that seem too heavy and ominous to defeat.

Sudasa has been preparing her whole seventeen years for this day. She has been taught how she must stand, how she must behave, how she must speak, and how she must look, because this is the most important moment. This is the moment in which her life is chosen. Will she be the pampered wife of a wealthy man in the best job in the city? Or will she make do, accompanying a handsome poor boy forever? In these Tests, her husband is chosen. In these Tests, her life is laid out for her. But she realizes that someone she knows-and hates- is in the Tests. And he is determined to win. Can she manipulate her Tests-and her future-to escape from her cheating, cruel cousin?

Five is waiting for the Tests to be over. He has also been preparing, planning for these Tests. He has been waiting anxiously. Because when he fails these Tests, he can run from the city. He can find his grandmother, who disappeared when the gates were still open. He can live a life of freedom. But can he bring himself to leave The Girl-Sudasa-to her fate?

This book was written in a series of different voices, each adapted to the differences in its characters’ personalities. Sudasa writes in a choppy, but strangely artistic and flowing, free verse, while Five writes in prose so elegant and well-formed that it almost feels like poetry itself. The book switches narration from Sudasa to Five frequently. This was a very risky thing for the author to do, because it might have confused the readers or made the plot less flowing, but instead it enhanced the reader’s understanding and connection to the characters. Unlike most attempts at multiple narrators, Bodger managed to put the two narratives in perfect harmony. While neither character thought the same things at the same time, they led off of each other’s experiences and mindset, and their similarities and differences turn the storyline into a captivating dance.

This book was very inspiring to me. Its characters were brave, smart, and utterly relatable. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in thinking about modern social issues, and who likes stories with strong characters who can persevere through tough situations and struggle with major challenges.

Reviewed By:

Author Holly Bodger
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publish Date 12-May-2015
ISBN 9780385391535
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue July 2015
Category Young Adult


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