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.
Now on to the post!
1. “She wants them to believe that obedience is the only option. Like all leaders, her reign depends on it.”
There is a strong theme of obedience in 5 to 1. It is the meaning of Sudasa’s name, as well as the character flaw she must overcome. It is also the main character trait expected of the boys and the one that is most questionable. Some people have wondered why the men would obey these rich women in charge. I think that is a question that society has been struggling with for a long time. Why do women allow themselves to be treated like lesser human beings? Why did history’s slaves do this same thing?
2. “Nani’s allegiance is to her
runs deeper than blood and skin.
It’s set in bone
and bone, once broken,
heals the same.”
I think this quote really sums up Sudasa’s grandmother’s entire character. Nani is angry. She was treated poorly as a child and then was forced into a bad marriage to a drunk man, who murdered her first two children because they were girls. Everything Nani did in creating Koyanagar was done with the intention of fixing all of the problems that caused her own suffering. Unfortunately, while Nani’s intentions may be good, she is too blinded by her pain and anger to see the effects of what she is doing.
Side note: This line was inspired by my best friend, who had broken her arm while I was writing this book. She made a comment about how the bone would never heal the same, and it made me think that all injuries are like that, especially the emotional ones.
3. “Appa says an honest man wears his scars on the outside, and I’m not ashamed of getting bloody any more than I am of having to work. I would be more ashamed if I came here to cheat, all so I could spend my life letting some girl boss me around.”
For me, this quote really epitomizes Kiran’s character flaw. He is not ashamed of who he is or what he comes from, but deep down he is hurting because he believes his mother deserted him. Like Nani, he doesn’t see that his pain is clouding his judgment.
Side note #2: Anyone who has read the book will probably have noticed that Kiran’s father (Appa) is my Yoda. The only difference is that Yoda would have said, “On the outside, an honest man wears his scars.” And then Yoda would have done a cool back flip.
4. “Surina gives me the kind of look
only an older sister can give.
The one that’s part,
‘I know better,’
‘I told you so.’”
This quote really demonstrates the charged dynamic between Sudasa and her older sister, Surina, which is important because it also happens to be the same dynamic as with Nani and her older sister, Yasmin (Mota Masi).
Side note #3: Yes, I am a younger sister, although I adore my older sister even if she does have an I-told-you-so look that should come with its own music and jazz hands.
5. “As far as I can tell, the only difference between them and us is they admit their country is falling apart while our leaders honestly believe they’ve created some kind of utopia. It’s like Appa says, ‘The people at the top of the pyramid always think the sun shines the brightest.’”
In this passage, Kiran is talking about why Koyanagar needs a wall to keep the people of the old country out, but he is also communicating his father’s view on the pyramid of wealth and how those at the top (rich) are the least likely to see the problems at the bottom (poor). I like this passage because it touches on why this was such an important book for me to write. Years ago, I did not know about gendercide. I knew people were adopting girls from China, but I had no idea why and I had never even considered the ramifications of those actions. I didn’t know that people in India (and elsewhere) actually murdered their babies if they were born female. I didn’t know that some girls were not fed as well or educated as well or given medicine if they got sick. In summation, I was at the top of the pyramid thinking things weren’t too bad for women’s rights. And I was wrong, so very wrong.
HOLLY BODGER has a BA in English Literature and has spent her entire career in publishing. She is an active member of RWA and is a 2013 Golden Heart finalist in the Young Adult category. She lives in Ottawa, Canada.
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