This is a post-apocalyptic fiction about a teenage midwife who lives Outside. All midwives are required to tithe the first three babies that they deliver each month to the Enclave, where they will be renamed and adopted without ever knowing who their birth parents are. Our heroine is utterly ignorant of the politics around the science of the situation until her parents are carried off by the Enclave soldiers for "knowing too much." Then she starts asking questions of her own. As this is a YA book, the most important question to her is "Where are my parents?" The rest of the book centers on both the where and the why, and manages to eventually answer both.
This is a YA fiction that gets three recommendations:
1. The story is tight. O'Brien does not wander off on plot tangents for more than a few sentences. The reader always knows where she is in the book, location, plot, etc.
2. The characters are strong, believable, and easy to understand in a few sentences. Even the secondary characters have sufficient personality to hold interest.
3. There is nuance to every life the story touches. No one is simply good, evil, unhappy, happy, etc. Death is fickle, as is luck, both of which appear and disappear with sufficient variety and happenstance that the ending does not feel odd or contrived.
I found this book to be more than a little reminicent of The Handmaid's Tale, without ever being anything like it. Odd, I know.
I'm definitely sending it to my sister and niece. I think that they will enjoy it. It's not all rainbows and bunnies (not by a LONG SHOT) but it's a solid story that includes a lot of humanity.