Five Reasons to Read 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

May 11, 2015 / 2 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

Source/Format: ARC provided by Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Publication date: May 12th 2015 (today!)
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: | | | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | The Book Depository | Google Books

In the year 2052, 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. 

Here’s why you should make 5 to 1 your next read:

1. The Diverse Characters

You probably already knew it from the synopsis, but not only are the characters not Caucasian, they’re also living in a future where Sudasa’s family has maintained some of the cultural trends that I saw growing up in an Asian family: that is, emphasis on saving face; desire for status and money, the importance of doing everything for family, and obeisance to elders. It was easy for me to relate to these cultural trends – in fact, some of them were so ingrained in the characters (and me!) that I didn’t notice them until they were pointed out by the protagonist.

2. The Unique Futuristic Concept

Sudasa’s country, Koyanagar, is one where men outnumber women five to one – thus, the need for more importance placed on women and child-bearing. The women who run this gender-dominated country purport to have solved the problems of society by revering women and subjecting men to physical labour or servitude. What’s scary about this world is that it could actually happen – China already has a one-child rule, and families there are often obsessed with having sons that can bear the family name. Female children end up abandoned – and if it got to an extreme, I could see this “solution” happening.

But what’s even more interesting about this concept is how even current issues with sex and gender come to light when placed side-by-side with the world of Koyanagar.

3. Prose AND Poetry

One of the coolest things about this novel is that Holly Bodger writes Sudasa’s sections in first person verse, while the main boy in the novel (known only has Contestant Five) speaks in prose. This separation feels like an homage to Shakespearean plays, where often the higher-born people would speak in verse, while the lower people spoke in prose. It’s just another way that the author shows how castes and privilege divides people. I enjoyed the verse parts, but I thought a few of the typographical choices used were a little heavy handed (changing the margin to the right when Sudasa talks about “stage right”, etc). I actually enjoyed Contestant Five’s spare prose more.

Also, speaking of poetry: Sudasa herself is obsessed with William Blake’s poetry, so you’ll see quite a few references in the novel, and that’s a bonus for me!

4. The Gorgeous Design

Ok, I know this isn’t really a reason to READ a book, but man, are the pages of this book beautiful. The design team at Random House has taken the beautiful henna from the cover and splashed it all over each of the chapter headings, and it’s just a delight to see when you’re reading.

5. It’ll Make You Think

5 to 1 is a very fast read, but it gets to the heart of issues of choice, freedom, and dominance very quickly. I didn’t get quite to “feels” level with this book, and some of it was a little predictable, but it definitely got me thinking about silent and vocal protest, about our own gender issues, and about choice. This would be a great book for younger teens to read in a classroom, not only to learn about gender issues, but also to learn about the differences in style between poetry and prose.

5 TO 1 comes out today. Are you interested in reading it? Have you read many diverse novels? How about novels in verse? Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts!

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2 responses to “Five Reasons to Read 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

  1. I can’t really read books like this, written in a more poetic form. It just doesn’t work for me, no matter how many times I try. However, I would absolutely check it out from the library just to look at all of the beautiful designs! I mean, dang!

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