Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 22nd 2011
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?
Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
I sort of went back and forth on the rating for this book. I couldn’t decide to give it 3 or 4 stars. In the end I decided on 4 because this book did keep me up till around 2am. So, for a book to do that to me when I know full well I have to wake up super early with my kids, it pretty much earned those 4 stars.
Let me start by saying I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. In fact, I was kind of ignoring it as it sat on my shelf collecting dust. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole polygamy with young girls. I can’t imagine sharing my husband. Honestly, I think I would feel like 3rd wheel.
However, I really came to appreciate the relationship between Rhine and her sister wives. They looked out for one another. And even though Rhine wants to escape, she worries about leaving them behind. I absolutely LOVED the premise for this book.
DeStefano explains the reason for this dystopian society is because of childhood vaccines received by the 1st generation. Now before I continue, I think it’s important for me to touch on a few points about childhood vaccines so you can see where I’m coming from. Wait– let me grab my soap box.
In the US our babies are given so many vaccines within the first year of life. Sometimes as many as 5 or 6 different vaccines in just ONE visit. That is a lot of medicine to pump in a baby, whose immune system is not even considered mature until around age 6. However, the CDC and FDA tells us these drugs are completely safe. Rarely will the pediatrician go over the side effects with you (which can range from a low-grade fever to brain swelling or seizures). Hell, most won’t even ASK you if it’s ok to give the shots. The nurse just walks it to administer the meds and you, the dutiful parent, don’t question it. After all, why should you? The government says they are safe and anyway they have been rigorously tested. They wouldn’t give it to our precious newborns if it wasn’t safe.
And my question to you would be: What testing? There are no long-term studies to show what effects these vaccines have on our bodies long-term. They literally don’t exist. Why? Because they are too new. Half of the vaccines they give out today wasn’t even around when I was a kid. And I’m only 23! So if you really think about it, we and our offspring are the study. Experiments, if you will. One thing is for sure, we aren’t passing on natural immunity anymore, because we don’t have it. So, who knows. Maybe we are destroying our bodies and we don’t even know it.
While that sinks in, I’ll move on to the rest of the review.
Can you only imagine living till age 20 (female) or 25 (male)? Can you imagine a world of human trafficking girls as young as 13 to become child brides and mothers, only to have their babies experimented on, desperately searching for a cure? Sounds horrifying, right? That is the world 16 year-old Rhine lives in. She is kidnapped by the gatherers and sold off to Governor Linden Ashby along with Jenna (18) and Cecily (13).
I loved Rhine. I truly felt her pain throughout the book and understood the overwhelming urge to escape her luxury prison and return to her twin brother Rowen. However, she doesn’t expect to develop a true sister relationship with her sister wives.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about Linden in the beginning. He seemed like a weak character to me. I just couldn’t understand why he never apologized to the girls about taking them from their homes. Then I realized he did not know. In reality, his father, Housemaster Vaughn kept him a prisoner as much as he did the girls. This allowed me to actually have sympathy for him. I found myself secretly wanting Rhine to tell him his father’s dark secrets. I felt a bit sad when she would lie to him because he truly did care for her. But can I really blame her? No, I suppose not.
Jenna and Cicely viewed life at the mansion drastically different from Rhine. Jenna looks at it as living her final two years in style before the virus takes her life. As a result, she is a little reckless with her actions because she feels she has nothing to lose. Cicely, on the other hand, envisions it as a privilege to live in the mansion where she can be waited on. For most of the novel she is oblivious to the severity of their situation.
Housemaster Vaughn is the villain. I’d liken him to that of a mad scientist. It seems he is willing to risk any and everyone to find the cure. He truly disturbed me with his methods and sinister plans.
I really liked Gabriel, but unfortunately I still don’t feel I know him that well. I’ll be interested to see him develop further in the next book.
Even though Rhine’s brother, Rowen, doesn’t formally make an appearance I feel like I still got a good idea of him as a character. Something tells me we may see him in the next book.
I loved DeStefano’s writing style. It pulled me in quickly and I found myself irritated whenever I had to put the book down. Lol. The ending, IMO, was a little rushed, but I am still really looking forward to the next book.