Published: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Simon & Schuster's galley grab
Series: Chemical Garden #1
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
Wither is to blame for my current book hangover. Once I started reading it, it was difficult for me to stop. I know a lot of people are already sick of the sudden increase in YA dystopian, but I am not one of those people.
It is not for the faint of heart. Don't let the gorgeous (yet, oh so perfectly fitting) cover fool you. I found myself repulsed throughout the majority of the book, but it was just one of those train wrecks you can't pull your eyes away from. It is a lot darker than your typical YA. There was a lot of death, and multiple spots for the reader to get misty eyed.
I have nothing against polygamy. I don't understand how women can share their husband, but I don't judge them for it. Whatever, that's their prerogative. But when it is forced polygamy, it's a different story. These girls had no choice in the matter, and they were so young. I realize they needed to be young because women die at age twenty, but the youngest wife, Cecily, was thirteen. THIRTEEN. I was disgusted by her child-like ways, when she's already sister wife. I was disgusted by her father-in-law's strange affection for her, and I was especially disgusted with the fact that Linden could touch her and live with himself. Which is upsetting, because he was otherwise a great character. This coupled with his naivety seemed to be his only real character flaws, but the Cecily situation is too much for me to overlook, even if this is the world as they know it.
The world was fascinating. North America is the only country left, as the rest of the world was wiped out in a WW3. (I won't talk about how unlikely it is that America would be the only country left standing, that's another discussion for another time.) Women live to be twenty and men twenty-five. The ages confuse me as well, considering women generally live longer than men, not to mention Rhine is a twin, and yet she will still die exactly five years before her brother. I see no logic in the numbers, but I'm not even going to attempt to dissect that. Regardless, I could not imagine living in a world like this. I would not want to know when my time was up. I would not want to live on the lone little island in the world, and live in constant fear of being a victim of human trafficking. Or worse, BE a victim of human trafficking. The idea is haunting.
I really felt like all of the characters were real, but I wasn't particularly fond of all of them. I liked Rhine, though from time to time I felt like she was losing herself. But there is so much going on in her world, so many places in which her loyalty lies, and she is a sixteen year old girl, after all. Her sister wife, Jenna, was one of my favorite characters, but I was not a fan of Cecily in the least. Gabriel was adorable, and probably my other favorite character. Their father-in-law was a creep, and I'm looking forward to whatever lies ahead for him, because I'm sure it won't be good.
Despite all of the things about this store that had me repulsed, it's beautifully written, and a beautiful story. Rhine's determination to get out and get back to her brother was riveting, and I was surprised at some of the lengths she was willing to go to for those around her to trust her. It explores the dynamics of polygamous relationships, a world in which the human race is truly on the verge of extinction, death, loyalty, and whatever else you'd like to throw in the mixing bowl. I loved it, and I am genuinely shocked. Not what I expected--at all. So eager for the sequel.