Series: The Chemical Gardens, Book One
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: 4th August 2011
Number of Pages: 320
Book: For Review from Harper Voyager*
Genre: Dystopia, Science-Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Death, Mild Alcohol, Drug References
Author's Blog: Lauren DeStefano
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
In our brave new future, DNA engineering has resulted in a terrible genetic flaw. Women die at the age of 20, men at 25. Young girls are being abducted and forced to breed in a desperate attempt to keep humanity ahead of the disease that threatens to eradicate it.
16-year-old Rhine Ellery is kidnapped and sold as a bride to Linden, a rich young man with a dying wife. Even though he is kind to her, Rhine is desperate to escape her gilded cage – and Linden’s cruel father. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracter to, Rhine attempts to break free, in what little time she has left.
Sixteen-year-old Rhine is stolen from her home and sold to the highest bidder. She is married to Linden, an ignorant twenty-one-year-old, whose father is trying to find a cure for the virus that has infected mankind, causing them to die young. Rhine only has four years left. And she does not intend to spend them here, in this luxurious prison. But how can she escape? And what will she be forced to leave behind if she does manage to get out?
I was trying to explain this to my friend, who thought it looked absolutely horrible. The only way I could was to say that, yes, it is not a nice world, but the book itself is beautiful, life-affirming. Horribly beautiful. And it was. I was addicted, unable to stop reading. I loved Lauren DeStefano’s writing, characters, world and plot. Everything was just so new and amazing – how many dystopias have the humans dying young rather than living for decades past our lifetime?
Rhine was a wonderful character. She was so strong, never even thinking about giving up, not even once. Though it may have been easier to stay in her pretty prison, she knew she had to get out. And I could feel the bond between her and her twin brother, Rowan, even though I never actually ‘met’ him. She was just so amazing: serious and brave. I loved her, her spirit, her kindness. Such a wonderful, wonderful character, who I can’t wait to see evolve in book two.
Her first sister-wife, Jenna, was just as amazing. Calm, sweet, quiet Jenna, who hated being trapped just as much as Rhine did, escaping into her romance novels. I fell in love with her: she would do anything for her sister-wife, and vice-versa. The third sister-wife is Cecily. I found her annoying at first: an immature, silly little girl. But then I got to know her. She was just such a sweetie, innocent and fragile. I loved her too, and hated that she had to mature so very fast.
The husband, Linden, was just as innocent. He had no clue what his father was up to, no idea what it had cost his wives when they were taken. In his own way, he was just as much of a prisoner as Rhine was. He cared for his wives, Rhine in particular. He wasn’t a bad person: in fact, he was a sweetheart.
His father, on the other hand, was evil. He made my skin crawl: I hated the man, and everything he stood for. He lied constantly, and experimented on his own grandson. Once again: pure.evil.
Finally, Gabriel, the other love-interest and the wives’ attendant. He was sweet, though he wasn’t in it all that much. Somehow the relationship between him and Rhine wasn’t as real as I would have hoped… Oddly enough, in this love-triangle, I’m leaning towards the ‘baddie’, towards Linden…
What made this book truly special was the sister-wives’ bond. They were so close, and the sisterhood between them felt real. It was simply beautiful. As for the relationship between Rhine and Linden, to begin with, it was fake, fake, fake. But, Linden honestly loved Rhine, and she loved him, though she wouldn’t admit that to herself. He took care of her, and she took care of him. There were times when I honestly couldn’t predict the ending, couldn’t figure out how it would end…
And, at this one point, I was choking up with tears. It was the story, yes, but more it was the world. It was horrible. I hated even an imagined world like it. All of this suffering caused by us humans: the real life monsters. The message: how far should we be willing to go to make ourselves immune to diseases? How far, when we don’t know what the consequences may be? What if, by our science, we make a world like this, where children grow up without parents, people have babies at thirteen, girls are forced into marriage – what then?
More importantly, it taught me that life is short. But it could be shorter, could be worse. Don’t waste your life.
I laughed, I cried, I smiled; I was terrified, shocked, horrified. It was amazing: a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. I adored Wither: I was addicted, unable to put it down. It’s now one of my favourite dystopias, which is saying something, seeing all of that genre I’ve been reading lately. I’m desperate for more! I need Fever, now!
P.S. Sorry for such a long review! I just loved this book, and had too many thoughts!
4¾ Out of 5
4¾ Out of 5
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* This book was received from Harper Voyage in exchange for an honest review