Published by Knopf on May 12th, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, young adult
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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.
This book is a testament to the power of word-of-mouth recommendations. Thanks to some very reliable and excited bloggers, I discovered 5 to 1. After reading the beautiful blurb, I was automatically set on getting this book.
This dystopia is set in a small, confined area of the world. India’s women, demanding equality and the abolishment of the one child rule results in a chunk of the country performing mutiny and forming a female-friendly sovereign nation. This book started out with a bang right from the start.
Bodger’s key message of gender equality and justice is the major factor for the setting of the book. What happens when the oppressed and the unwanted rise up against the norm, questing for a better life? According to 5 to 1, a radically changed, yet somewhat parallel society takes the place of the shunned social structure. Sadly, the lessons that the ruling female leaders learned from the “old country” only strengthened the spirit of entitlement and revenge. In short, the group of women “turned the tables” and flipped the social structure upside down. Instead of creating a country of peace and fairness, the same ideas are applied and privileges transfer to another group of people, creating an unbalanced scale of gender rights.
The women hold the power, and the men submit, and adopt a persona of “lesser” and “unwanted.”
The outcome from the rebellion of the women came as a shock, but for some witnesses, the only way to sate their hunger for justice is to revise discrimination and privileges for a portion of the population.
I loved the paradox of the society to say the least.
The characters did take a backseat to the main storyline, but they were still enjoyable. The story switches between two POVs: one of the males competing for a wife, and Sudasa, the woman to be won. Unknown to one another, they have the same goals and ambitions: to escape to a life where choice is an option. Women in the society are treated like celebrities, obtaining a high rank in the country just based on their gender. However, there are still expectations. A gilded cage is still a cage. Living in comfortable captivity is still imprisonment. Susana works against her shy nature and her fear of the outside world to try and change her own future, where she can embrace choice and freedom, even if the price is high.
Romance in the novel is a delicate subject, and Bodger embraces the expectations of current YA by changing the formula. This book could have easily turned into a accidental lovefest, two characters bound by the same goal, finding love where it is not wanted or needed. However, the author took a chance, and it paid off. Both male and female main roles instead turn to fall in love with their goals and their inspirations. They both seek the same goal, but more important than finding The One is finding out who they are without the suffocating demands placed on each of their shoulders.
This idea is so refreshing, so unexplored, so NEW that I gave a cheer at the end. The field needs more books willing to take the chance and have the characters save themselves before they turn their attention to romantic interests. It is hard to try to maintain an intimate relationship when you are fearing for your life, or if your future hangs in the balance, determined by present actions.
The downsides were far and few between. I did feel a little lost in the world building, and I felt that some of the logic didn’t fit. For example, Sudasa is working to relieve herself of a sexist, future abusive husband that is favored to win the Tests. I suppose the author’s message is that when the scales are unbalanced, no one wins, but I don’t see the cousin getting away with blatant disrespect, and when his words are abusive, I don’t see how she could not have called in the authorities and had him put in his place. This is a society where men cannot be politicians, doctors, or hold any prestigious job. The women still see men as a threat, and even the padding of favoritism didn’t seem a likely savior for him.
The other issue is that I really wanted so much more. This idea could take off, develop into something new, and there were so many unanswered questions. Where some of the parts of the novel were bold and daring, other areas of the plot seem to skirt away from controversy or action.
This book is as beautiful as the cover. The subject of the novel, the setting of this future society, and the burning question of “What if girls DID run the world?” makes this book a must read for 2015. Dystopia isn’t dead, and culture is slowing pushing into the genre, and this novel is a welcome relief from the run-of-the-mill whites-only YA dystopia.