In the central premise of the story, there are lucky people living inside a beautiful, walled city called the Enclave, and less lucky people living in the semi-slum of Wharfton outside the wall. Despite being poor, Gaia Stone grows up relatively happy in the loving care of her wonderful parents. Unfortunately, as she grows older she begins to become aware that there are more than financial disparities between those inside the Enclave and those outside it. Gaia has grown up as an outsider in general due to the large scar covering a whole side of her face. Her parents told her she'd been burned accidentally as a baby, but the truth, once she discovers it, is much more complicated.
Gaia's mother is a midwife who assists the women of Wharfton. When Gaia reaches her late teens, she begins assisting her. Gaia copies her mother's actions in every way, including her loving care of both mother and baby. Of course, that loving care is deeply damaged whenever the mother is required to "advance" her baby to the Enclave. "Advancing" children is required by law, and is essentially a state-sanctioned form of baby stealing. Once a child is advanced to the Enclave, he/she is adopted and will never know his/her real parents. This creates a deeply rooted anguish among the people of Wharfton, including Gaia's parents, who were forced to advance two beloved sons.
The reason the Enclave needs the children so desperately is because their population is suffering form disease and death as a result of inbreeding. They need the genetic diversity that comes from the people of Wharfton. Though Gaia herself would never have imagined defying the power of the Enclave, she ends us becoming a nearly one-girl revolution by complete accident when her parents are taken away and her mother's friend, Old Meg, shoves a mysterious ribbon into her hands before the authorities come. Like the weave of knots in the ribbon, Gaia's life becomes a chaotic mystery as she comes to understand her parents'...
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