I was really impressed by Prized, the second book in the Birthmarked series. I'd read some negative reviews and was a little wary about it, considering how much I loved the first one. Prized didn't disappoint.
I was impressed by the character development that Gaia experienced. In the first book she did the normal YA dystopian thing. She realized the inequalities in her system as they reorganized her life. She fought back. In the end she left, hoping to find a better life far from home. As well written as that was and as complex as the society was, it wasn't really anything I haven't read before.
The second book tackled a totally different subject. Gaia finds the Dead Forest and it wasn't what she expected. Whereas before she was reacting to her environment, Prized sees Gaia developing her own moral compass and coming into her own as a leader. It was a cool next step on a journey you rarely see a teenage heroine make.
Once again O'Brien's world building is phenomenal. She has interesting scientific ideas about what really could create a future world different then our own. As the series progresses the world gets bigger and more interesting. I'm hoping the weird romance stuff doesn't keep up though. It worked out in this book, but I wouldn't be interested in seeing it continue in the same vein. O'Brien is way too good an author to lean on the same love triangles/quadrangles for narrative tension.
My only other complaint would be the odd pacing of this book. I felt like the narrative structure was a little off, with a lot of attention being paid to some parts of the story and other nearer the end just being skipped through. While I wasn't surprised to see Gaia stepping up to the plate, I'm still not completely clear on the transition from acceptance to activism. I look forward to the next book.