It’s 2054, and after decades of gender selection, India’s boy to girl ratio is now five to one. In other words, women are now even more valuable commodities than before. Tired of marry their daughters off, some women form the country of Koyanagar. They’ve also instituted a series of tests so that every boy has a chance to “win” a wife. Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife though, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete to become her husband, has ulterior motives as well. However, as the tests progress, Sudasa and Kiran slowly realize that they just might want the same thing. This novel is told from alternating points of view ― Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose ― rendering readers speechless by painting a story of pain, beauty, bravery, and ultimately, hope.
I read this novel over spring break while I was on the car. That was a bad decision; I had to explain to my entire family the tears streaming down my face while we were driving through Ohio. Mom, I’m just crying because I’m reading the most beautiful book since I read A Tale of Two Cities two years ago. No big deal. Yet 5 to 1 is truly a big deal; Holly Bodger depicts India’s gender inequality through a futuristic lens. She makes what seem so distant grounded in the present, in reality. The way Bodger explores such a paradox is commendable. Her message is strong, her prose and verse compelling and beautiful.
Plot-wise though, 5 to 1 is too simplistic for my taste. Though I understand gender selection and arranged marriage are major issues in India, I know that those aspects are not the only components of Indian identity. Holly Bodger, by portraying women turning the tables on men by forming their own country just to marry their daughters off differently – through tests – misses the nuances of Indian culture. This being said, 5 to 1 is still a groundbreaking novel in its focus on India and its confrontation of current issues in the country.
My English teacher this year emphasized critiquing a book by its ending. Basically, I need to rant about the ending of 5 to 1, which, simply put, was epic. Rarely do standalone books have a somewhat unresolved ending, where many aspects are open-ended. I personally love these endings because they’re real; humanity is messy and far from the clean-cut way it’s described in many YA books. Basically, 5 to 1 is real, especially at the end of the book.
And you’ve really got to read it. (My puns are getting worse, as you can tell.)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 12th, 2015)
ISBN #: 9780385391535
Length: 224 pages (Hardcover)