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"Don't let anger over the past become the fuel that fires your future." —5 to 1
5 to 1
by Holly Bodger
Women rule the land. Women are respected. Women built Koyanagar into a country where women could do anything. But to accomplish this, they had to put men into their place.
If they want chance at having a better life, the boys of Koyanagar must compete for a wife. Those who do not have a wife—and do not give their wife a female child—will be forced to guard the wall. Everyone knows once you’re sent to guard the wall, it’s only a matter of time until you end up dead.
Sudasa should feel excited about having young men compete for her hand in marriage. As she watches the test though, she realizes her cousin is among the contestants and has been given an unfair advantage over the others. Someone wants to make sure her cousin is the clear winner of the test.
The only boy who could possibly beat Sudasa’s cousin is Kiren. But there’s a slight problem, as Kiren hopes to gain his freedom by losing the test. Sudasa knows that Kiren may be her only hope in avoiding a marriage to a cousin who she despises. Yet, she also knows that Kiren doesn’t want to win the test and be forced to marry her. As she wrestles with the right thing to do—for herself and for Kiren—she discovers Koyanagar isn’t based on fairness at all.
5 to 1 is written from both Sudasa’s and Kiren’s point of view. Sudasa’s story is written in verse; however after reading the first page, the reader will be so engrossed in the story that they forget that they are reading poetry. Because Kiren’s point of view is in prose, it is easy to keep track of which character is speaking.
The world of Koyanagar is mesmerizing and unique. The characters come to life and add interest to the story. The two main characters drive the action. Both characters are struggling to do the right thing, and in doing so they capture the reader’s heart.
The only down side of 5 to 1 is the story ended without having the conflict completely resolved. The end of the book is frustrating because Kiran and Sudasa’s fates are unclear.
- In a speech, the president talks about when girls were sold, “to the highest bidder.” And some were, “raped, fated for ruin.”
- One of the contestants tells a guard, “I bet you wish it was still the old country, huh? A man should be able to stick it to his wife whenever he wants, and if she doesn’t like it, he should be able to slap her senseless.”
- A contestant tells Sudasa, “You’ll be the one sweating in our marriage bed.” When she slaps him, he laughs at her.
- Abortion is talked about throughout the book. Before Koyanagar became a country, many families aborted girl children. Now women abort boy children.
- The president of the country tells the people, “The people took their money and spent it on illegal ultrasounds. If they didn’t hear the words ‘It’s a boy,’ they spent more money on doctors who could quietly made the problem go away. If they couldn’t afford these luxuries, they waited nine months and then took care of things themselves. Some abandoned their baby girls in a park, knowing they would be sold to lands far away. Other used a towel. A pail. And a grave.”
- There are several references to Agnimar Cliff where young men go to jump off the wall and end their life. Boys who are weak or do not want to be trained to guard the wall jump off Agnimar Cliff.
- A boy was killed because he, “refused to tell the State where his girlfriend was hiding.”
- Sudasa’s sister says that she would abort a baby if it was a boy. She would do this even if abortion is illegal. When Sudasa protest, her sister says, “You saw that disabled boy competing for you. Do you think a mother would want a boy like that in her belly?”
Drugs and Alcohol
- People wanted boy children because they could, “attend their funeral pyres and release their souls to heaven.” A character gives a boy a proper funeral pyre to “free the boy’s soul for rebirth.”
- Being invited to be a part of the marriage test is supposed to be an honor. “That’s what she keeps saying, as if the mere act of being invited to fight for one’s life is a gift from the gods we’re not supposed to believe in anymore. I don’t believe in them, but not because religion has been banned . . . I just don’t think a being that’s good and fair would lie a place like Koyanagar exist.”