Review ~ 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Author: Holly Bodger
Genre: YA Dystopia/Poetry
Page Length: 244 pages
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Borrowed via library

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 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.  Sudasa's family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable - and caged.  Kiran's family wants him to escape by failing the tests.  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.

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger is a powerful narrative about two young people, a girl, Sudasa, and a boy, Kiran, who both seek to break free from personal restraints set by family and society.  Sudasa and Kiran, though of opposite genders and social classes, collide, united by a common hope, a yearning, for a better future.  A wish for freedom.  A need to break free.  Written in a lyrical combination of Sudasa's verse to Kiran's prose, 5 to 1 truly manages to affect readers in its brief amount of pages.

When you first jump into 5 to 1, you are instantly hit with Sudasa's poetic voice.  She is a strong young woman who knows what she wants, but doesn't know how to get there: a common thread we can all relate to.  In the year 2054, in Sudasa's home country Koyanagar, there is a ratio of approximately five boys to every one girl, making girls extremely valuable - a prize.  Each girl in Koyanagar is "fairly" wedded off to a boy, who must compete and emerge victorious through a series of tests.  But Sudasa does not want to marry.  She does not want to be some man's prize.  She knows the truth: these tests are not conducted fairly, instead ruled by politics and the pulling of strings in the background.  And Sudasa refuses to continue living in such an egregious society.

We follow along Sudasa's journey as she develops beautifully as a character.  In 5 to 1, we get that strong female protagonist we've come to know and love in dystopian books.  However, Sudasa isn't your typical definition of "strong."  She can't wipe out an army with her bare hands or bring mass destruction to her enemies with her skill in weaponry.  She can't shoot evil with a bow and arrow or filet you with two swords.  She can however, beat you with her spirit.  She can stand up in rebellion by taking a stand for what she knows is just.  She will not conform to what she knows is immoral.  Sudasa is in certain ways, I believe, stronger than that kick-ass assassin or sharpshooter.  She truly redefines the word.

Kiran is also a force to be reckoned with.  I loved how he truly took a stand, refusing to take part in the tests, if only to help out a follow competitor.  I enjoyed Kiran's chapters equally, if not a bit more than Sudasa's.  I found him to be an interesting character in all senses of the word.

And although I loved the characters and their unbreakable spirit, I can't say I was invested in the story.  I feel the world building and the storyline were pushed to the side, the story focusing solely on Sudasa's and Kiran's personal journeys and their development.  This of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing.  However, I do wish Holly Bodger immersed the reader further into this intriguing world she's created.

Julia's a dreamer. She often zones off periodically throughout the day thinking up plans for the future, pining over fictional characters, and concocting up possible plot lines for stories.

You can find Julia on her main blog, Peach Print, on Twitter @peachprint, on Instagram @yapeach, and of course, right here on the APCB blog.


  1. I liked 5 to 1, too, but like you, I would've wanted to know more about the world-building. It's a good story, though. :)

    Julie @ Books and Insomnia

  2. Ah... I'm so wary of books in verse, but I have read a book that was mixed prose/verse and liked it. So I do want to try this.
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  3. I agree with you that I wish we had seen more into the world and the general population. Overall I found it a fast and interesting read.

  4. I haven't heard about this one but I like the premise a lot. Thanks for the review, I'm going to look into this book.
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

  5. This was a lovely little book, and I liked the poetry sections a lot more than I was expecting to. I just think it needed a little something *more*. I wasn't completely invested either. I'm curious to see if there will be a sequel!

  6. "She can however, beat you with her spirit." Sudasa sounds like a refreshingly realistic strong heroine :D I mean, I do love princesses who are also trained soldiers but characters like Sudasa are so much more relatable and sometimes even more inspiring :")

    This does sound like a world that needs a lot of development so it's sad to hear it wasn't explored too much. Nice review, Julia!

  7. Oh interesting! This is the first that I've heard about this one! I'm sad that you weren't as invested in the story, the characters do sound like a good pull though!

  8. I've never read a book in prose/verse so I really want to read this (the cover is also so pretty) <3 Sudasa and Kiran sound like such great characters. I'm sad to hear that there wasn't really enough world-building though. But I will definitely still pick this up. Great review, Julia! :)

    ~Cari @ My Addiction: Books

  9. I know there has been a lot of love for this book! I have a feeling that I wouldn't love it though, so I passed. Your rating is pretty high, I'm glad you at least liked it! :)

    Great review, Julia!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  10. You read my mind Julia Anne! I really liked this, but I just didn't feel emotionally connected to it enough to give it more than 3.5 stars either. And the lack of world-building kind of influenced that feeling as well. But, still, it was such a great and quick read overall and I think, in the end, that's what matters. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  11. Sudasa sounds like a wonderfully strong character, and I love Kiran's personality as well! A shame this one didn't have more world building to really flesh out the story. I love the diversity mentioned though! Lovely review Julia.

  12. Lovely review, Julia Anne! I have been wanting to read this book, so I'm glad you really liked the characters! I think characters are so important, and I love a good, strong female protagonist, especially those with a strong mind and heart over a strong physical presence (although those can be fantastic too). It's a shame that the world building wasn't a major factor in the book since I love good world building, but I am still really looking forward to picking it up when I get the chance.

  13. I was very intrigued by the synopsis because it sounded like a potential feminist book, so it's great to hear such a realistic and amazing dharacter like Susana is in this book. I will try it, even though you couldn't get invested enough in the story. Who can tell if I'm going to love it?

    Vane at Books With Chemistry

  14. Hmm... I do want to try this book at some point. I like the idea of it in general, and I have heard that there basically is no romance which for some reason always makes me want to read the book more. I am a character driven reader and will love that the development is done in so much detail. However, I am also very keen on world building, so knowing that is pushed to the side bothers me a teensy bit. It seems like if this one was longer and maybe slowed down things somewhat we could get more in in terms or plot and world.

  15. This seems to be the one complaint that people have had - that there wasn't enough of the unique world. I still think I'd really enjoy this one, so I'll probably do what you did and pick it up from the library.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  16. I'm so so desperate to read this one someday. IT JUST SOUNDS SO AMAZING AND DIVERSE and basically nothing like all the other dystopians out there! :D

  17. I liked 5 to 1 as well, but like you I wish there was more to the world building! Also I felt that some things were a little contradicting in that aspect as well. But still it was a good read! Awesome review Julia :)


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