Caragh O'Brien's Birthmarked was a refreshing twist on the typical dystopian novel. Unlike most, which create a completely fictional futuristic society, O'Brien incorporates things that affect real lives today into the story to create a very plausible story.
Warning: Plot spoilers may follow.
At first, it surprised me a bit that hemophilia was such a major component of the plot. In my past experiences, authors that try to include a scientific twist tend to botch the actual facts of the disease. However, O'Brien obviously did her research, because both the genetic and physical components of the disease were described accurately and succinctly in the text. Enough information was given about hemophilia to explain to the reader why certain other events were taking place, but on the other hand, the reader was not overwhelmed with scientific data. I thought it was a nice balance, and enough to convince me that this future is possible for our society.
I thought Gaia was a believable protagonist. While there were some points in the book where I could accurately predict what would happen next, I understood that Gaia might not be able to because of her limited knowledge of the world inside the Enclave. In that sense, the reader must be able to separate herself from the main character at times in order to appreciate the story more. While you might be able to figure something out, Gaia might not. And while the POV is third person limited, just as an educated reader in 2011, some things become obvious.
I have to say that the ending of Birthmarked was very reminiscent of the ending of The Giver. (If you've read The Giver- the same thing happens.) While I found that ending to be perfectly suitable for The Giver, in the case of Birthmarked, I thought it was really just an easy way to create a cliffhanger. I thought that there could have been other feasible endings, and O'Brien just chose the most extreme. But I guess I'll have to wait for the sequel and see if I'm less disappointed with this ending based on the plot of that book.
The sequel to Birthmarked, Prized, is expected to be released in November 2011.