5 to 1 // Holly Bodger
Overview: It's the year 2034 and in the wake of gender selection and infanticide in India, women have formed the country of Koyanagar to reverse these tragic practices. Now, rather than living in fear of being murdered, raped, or sold off by their families as sources of income, the young girls of India live lives of luxury as precious commodities. Boys however, live lives in stark contrast to females in which they are viewed comparably to dirt on one's brand new shoes. In order to solve both the gender imbalance, and selling of daughters, Koyanagar created the Tests.
The Tests occur annually, and any girl who has turned seventeen since the last round of Tests is required to participate. Five young men of ages eighteen years or younger are chosen at random per girl to participate in "winning" her heart through a series of tests. Those who lose are sent to guard the wall of Koyanagar for the rest of their lives where hundreds of boys die each year by "suicide". However, the contestant who wins is then married to the girl, and the couple is then encouraged to reproduce using extreme methods and planning to produce a profitable baby girl.
Sudasa must participate in the Tests this year, and her Nani (who holds high authority in Koyanagar) is doing everything in her power to make sure that Sudasa chooses the right boy - including rigging the Tests by picking Sudasa's well-prepared and beastly cousin to be one of the five contestants. As the process of the Tests proceed, Sudasa becomes increasingly infatuated with one of her contestants - Contestant Five - for his unwillingness to put forth his best effort in winning her hand in marriage. We later find out that his intentions have less to do with Sudasa, and more to do with a plan of escape his Appa has fabricated for him.
In the end, Sudasa gets the final say in who she chooses. But will she choose who her Nani thinks is best? Will she choose the boy she wants who doesn't want her in return? Or will she choose herself?
My Thoughts: Originally published in 2015, 5 to 1 is best described as a young adult, science fiction novel. There are two protagonists Sudasa, whose parts are stylistically written as poetry stanzas, and Contestant Five (Kiran), whose parts are written as traditional, single-spaced lines of text. Although many may find the transitioning between stanzas and paragraphs annoying, I personally found it to be more engaging and insightful. Throughout the entire text Sudasa constantly mentions poetry, including the poem The Tyger by William Blake, and even choses poetry as the final test for her remaining contestants. Much of Sudasa's life also revolves around choice and obedience - Sudasa meaning obedient - because her life scripts were created at birth as soon as her gender was revealed; as a result, it only makes sense that her story is written repetitively like much of the poetry genre. In comparison, Kiran is portrayed as intuitive, strategic, and straight forward in his thinking to all but Sudasa, so it was a smart move in my opinion for Bodger to write his parts to reflect his character.
It's obvious that some of Bodger's inspiration for writing this novel comes from India's current issue with female infanticide and child brides, and I praise her for bringing such a large yet hidden issue to light. I also praise her for taking these topics and "break[ing] them in reverse" (Bodger, 125) whilst imbedding them into a futuristic dystopian society. However, I wish she would've played up Sudasa's choice of rebellion a little bit more because although the ending was impactful, it would've been more impactful to me if I would've been able to begin to see Sudasa as a heroine much sooner before the conclusion. I have to admit that writing that small critique was quite the struggle because in all honesty I loved every part of this book. My only advice when reading this novel is to make sure you slow yourself down. It was easy for me to get caught up in trying to get through the pages as fast as possible since the stylistic writing made it so easy to breeze through; however, I later regretted not taking the time to slow myself down because I realized that there were many important insights that I had missed that added incredibly insightful depth to the story that can't be seen with the naked eye in the short and spaced-out lines of text.
Overal Rating: 10/10