This book and I got on a plane together, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were both trapped in a small space with little else to do, we might have parted ways early on. I didn’t step smoothly into the first few chapters of Birthmarked. My reading experience sort of tripped, stumbled, almost face-planted. At first the writing seemed quite dense and strangely... formal? I had some difficulty getting my head into the world – possibly due to some pre-conceived ideas I had about the book, which turned out to be pretty far off the mark. Then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and eventually, I found myself breaking into a page-turning sprint (okay, maybe more of a jog, to be honest). (And I’m not sure that metaphor really works, but you know what I mean..)Translated, this basically means that the book grew on me and I found it got stronger the further I read. I wasn’t completely sure for the first third or so, but I did end up enjoying this book, particularly once the action shifted locations from outside the wall to within the Enclave.In terms of the world, I liked the concept of the post climate change environment and the “unlake”. O’Brien conveyed the oppressiveness of not only the way the world was governed and the enforced “advancing” of babies, but also the heat, and the harshness of the drought-stricken landscape. At times, despite the fact that the story is set in the future, parts of the world felt archaic, which was interesting when juxtaposed with occasional references to technology like computers and surveillance systems and cinema-like screens. While I wouldn’t say that this is an action driven book in the style of say, The Hunger Games, neither is it as languid as I found Matched. The plot is still sufficiently engaging and gains momentum as Gaia sets about code-cracking and performing some stealth midwifery and generally running afoul of the powers that be and.. er.. wearing a crepe on her face.... I thought that the premise, while not without its own problems and flaws, at least required less suspension of belief and logic than some other dystopias. However, I didn’t find the level of evil or creepiness from the antagonists that I was expecting. Side note: I’ve seen some other reviewers reference The Handmaid’s Tale and point to some similarities between the two – but I have to say that I’m not sure I would make the comparison. Aside from the colour-coding of clothing, the two are far too different to me to place them side by side. I think I will read Prized – if only because the ending of Birthmarked was very open and I’d be interested to see what direction Caragh O’Brien takes Gaia’s story.