Title: 5 to 1
Author: Holly Bodger
Published: May 12, 2015 (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Dystopian, Free-Verse, Feminism
Source: Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers for review consideration
Rating: Four Stars
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 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.
Cover Thoughts: I featured this cover in Wondrous Covers Wednesday. I really loved the Indian aspect of the cover because it fit perfectly. Having the Henna covered hands was perfect given this book is about a possible wedding.
First Line: One month from today, I’ll wake to a team of make artists — hair stylists — buzzing outside my door.
First Thoughts: I instantly liked Sudasa and her sections being told in free-verse.
5 to 1 was a really short read with only 224 pages. It was a breeze to go through which was nice. The shortness of 5 to 1 didn’t take any detail away from it though. I loved the take of dystopian that it took as it doesn’t seem like an extreme dystopian and something that’s plausible. Which is actually scary.
I liked the matriarchy that 5 to 1 showed, even though it definitely wasn’t the greatest. I liked how the entire Test process started because Sudasa’s grandmother wanted things to change so she changed them. That was really great to me. Like most drastic changes though, the country isn’t exactly doing any better than it was. If anything, they just have the reversal problem and it’s getting worse.
In this world, men are given the chance to enter tests to win a wife. If they fail to win a wife, they get sent to the wall where they are rewarded. They are then “protectors” of the village, assigned to keep violence to a minimal and stop people from coming or leaving. It was really interesting to see how this society formed and I would have liked more detail on it.
I loved the main characters voices, especially Sudasa’s. I loved how she questioned things and then wondered if she was wrong about them. Sudasa came across as a really strong character to me, despite having a name meaning obedience and forced into a role she didn’t want to play. I like how she knew getting married could benefit her, but didn’t want to get married. I could really feel the family pressures on her as her sister had gotten married two years ago, her best friend two weeks before and her grandmother’s natural pressure for her to marry someone. I liked the feminist message 5 to 1 had with the matriarchy government, women holding value and Sudasa wanting her own destiny.
I liked how different the contestants all were from each other. Contestant One was a well off guy who’d never worked a day in his life and his family had money. Contestant Five in turn, did know how to work, wasn’t not well off at all and like Sudasa, didn’t want to get married. Contestant Five was an interesting character to figure out because he speaks of a plan, but we don’t find out the plan right away. I liked Contestant Five’s personality, you could describe him as a brooding type for sure. Both Sudasa and Contestant Five had their humorous moments which I adored.
What amused and annoyed me were the perceptions Sudasa and Contestant Five had of each other due to their roles. There were times when I just wanted to tell both characters to be quiet and to actually think before judging. I still loved them both though. I was thrilled that 5 to 1 wasn’t a simple romance story as I always prefer my romance on the far backburner.
5 to 1 was told in a really interesting way. Sudasa’s parts were all in free-verse whereas Contestant Five’s sections were in regular prose. I thought the free-verse worked well for Sudasa because of how she’s forced to be married and I thought of it as a sort of barrier. I liked the way her thoughts came across in the writing. Their alternating point of views gave a full picture of how people feel on both sides of this situation, the “prize” and the “contestant”
I’m not entirely sure what I thought about the ending, I wish some things had been answered, but it leaves the window of possibility open!
5 to 1 is one of my most thought provoking books of the year. This was a really hard book to put down and I found that when I did, I would pick it up not long after! I loved the writing which was really visual for me. One of my favorite aspects was how Sudasa and Contest Five wanted control of their own roles and they didn’t want to just stand back. They were characters of actions and decisions which I loved. I think 5 to 1 is one of the most unique dystopians I ever read. I would love for there to be companion books along with it because this world is amazing to read about.
~Memorable Quotes (taken from ARC)~
I’ll fight the urge to scratch it away, because I’m suds the Obedient and I must keep my fingers glued together like the dolls Asha and I left buried under my bed.
I won’t look at him either. Will look at the woman. In front of him. The one with the stole of red. The color of love? No. The color of blood. Blood of birth. Blood of death. The only things that matter in Koyanagar
The men played a game. Put on a show. Won a contest. A wife. A life. Life sentence, if you ask me.
I should be thankful. Thankful my sex guarantees me the life of a bird. Food. Safety. A home? More like a cage.
He is the epitome of the winning team. The happy ending everyone longs for.
They introduce me as “Five” and that’s who I am, as far as the “honorable girl” is concerned. A number. An option. And not the one she’ll pick.
His family chose to be happy despite their circumstances.
She wants them to believe that obedience is the only option.
Although it’s supposed to make men out of boys, I’ve heard it produces more corpses than people.
Obedience is fickle that way; it’s a virtue to its master but a vice to its slaves.