Birthmarked - Caragh M. O'Brien
Sixteen year old Gaia Stone serves as a midwife, sending her first three deliveries each month into the care of the walled city in the Enclave. On the night of her first delivery, Gaia returns home to find her parents arrested by soldiers of the Enclave. Like her mother, Gaia has always dutifully served the Enclave without question; now she finds herself sneaking into the forbidden walls of the Enclave to rescue her parents and to discover the truth behind their imprisonments.

Birthmarked is set in the early 2400s, on an arid Earth that has been devastated by climate change. The citizens of the enclave have found ways to live in relative luxury with ample food and electricity. Gaia’s family are residents of Wharfton, a settlement of refugees that has risen up around the walled Enclave. The citizens of Wharfton live a comparatively medieval lifestyle, and are dependent on the walled city for most of their resources.

Gaia’s small world is very well developed and grounded in reality, and characters must deal with real issues that would arise in the apocalyptic setting. The primary focus is on the difficulties of the limited population in the Enclave; genetic disorders are becoming increasingly common as Enclave residents do not mix with the people of Wharfton. The ruling Protectorate sees the baby quota as a means of increasing genetic diversity, and imposes near tyrannical reproductive laws on the people of the walled city. The book also explores issues such as incest, abortion, and parenting rights in a manner that works well with the overall story.

The book starts out somewhat slow, but quickly picks up following Gaia’s entry into the Enclave. Unfortunately, there are numerous typos and grammatical errors that were evidently missed by the editor. While these errors don’t detract from the quality of the story, they can occasionally disrupt the flow of the text.

Birthmarked is excellent read with strong characters and a well developed setting. Like most YA novels, this is the first in a series, but most of the story elements are addressed and the ending doesn’t leave too much hanging. This is a great read overall that will leave you wanting the next installment.