Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Simon & Schuster (3.22.2011)
Hardcover, 358 pages
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?
There were so many things wrong with this book in the world-building category it’s not even funny, so I’m going to get my complaints out of the way first.
First of all, I would have loved to know what year it’s supposed to be. The only thing she gives you is, “Seventy years ago science perfected the art of children.” So how far in the future from now is that perfection? Your guess is as good as mine. So anyway, they found a cure for cancer and everyone got ‘immune-system boosts’ to prevent allergies, season ailments, and STDs. There were no flaws in the new generation of ‘perfectly engineered embryos assured a healthy, successful population.’ Okay, so how can everyone afford it? That kind of science sounds expensive. The government sure wouldn’t fund it, and only the highest class would be able to come up with that kind of money.
So that was the first generation, perfection. But something went wrong with their children – due to a virus, their life span is cut drastically short. They try and try to figure out why, but the virus doesn’t show up in their genes. How could something like that not show up, with no explanation? If it was ravaging your body, I’m sure you’d be able to see it. And what kind of virus would have that power, to wipe out everyone at a specific age? How does it work? How does a cure lead to a virus? I would have liked to have some sort of scientific explanation for it. After coming straight from Dearly, Departed, where everything about the new world and the virus was so elegantly and convincingly explained, I was highly disappointed. A little bit of research could have eliminated these flaws and made this book so much more conceivable.
Which brings me to my third major problem. The only continent left is North America. The only reason given for this is, “A third world war demolished all but North America, the continent with the most advanced technology. The damage was so catastrophic that all that remains of the rest of the world is ocean and uninhabitable islands so tiny that they can’t even be seen from space.” A world war? Really? If it was chemical warfare, I could understand everyone else being wiped off the face of the earth. But there was never any mention of that. Just a world war. Yeah, that makes sense.
Going back to the virus…if it’s a “virus,” then how come it’s not contagious? She even says that it affects the soil and water. But not people? Hmm. Also, at one point it’s mentioned that the only edible fish are farther out in the ocean, because the closer to land you get, the more contaminated the water. Umm. Let’s just use our brains for a minute here. Fish have fins and waters have current. And they just stay in one spot, out in the middle of the ocean? Riiiiiight.
The lack of thought for the world-building was aggravating. But despite all these complaints, I still really liked this book. After the haphazard explanations were out of the way, I was able to forget about the whys and hows and focus on the story – which sucked me in. The things that the girls go through is horrible. They can have everything they could ever want except for freedom. It was easy to feel what they felt. DeStefano may have gotten all the research wrong, but she definitely got the emotion part right. While I didn’t cry (which is surprising), there were a few times that I got chills.
The characters felt realistic and so did the atmosphere. Housemaster Vaughn is twisted and terrifying and I hated him. The things he did and wanted to do made him a monster. At first I felt the same way for Linden, but as the story went on I started to realize maybe he wasn’t so bad, maybe he was as much a prisoner as the girls were. Rhine was a great main character, strong and independent (and she has heterochromia…so awesome!). I don’t really have any complaints about her. I really liked Jenna even though I wasn’t sure what to think of her at first. I didn’t care for Cecily a lot of the time, because she was so selfish and annoying. But she did have good intentions and she was just caught up in naivety. I never really got a feel for Gabriel though, and didn’t feel satisfied with the developing romantic feelings between him and Rhine.
On a side note, I loved the holograms in the pool!! Swim with sharks, dolphins, and jellyfish or navigate the sunken Titanic? Yes please!!
You want to know about true love? I’ll tell you something about true love. There’s no science to it. It’s natural as the sky.
So true. Love can’t be forced.
I have always been fascinated by the ocean, to dip a limb beneath its surface and know that I’m touching eternity, that it goes on forever until it begins here again.
I liked this one a lot because I adore the ocean. And this sentence really captures the feeling of it.
Writing style: 4/5
I was riveted.
Real and convincing.
NOT convincing. Needed way more thought and research.
I was never bored.
While her hair is rather creepy, I love all the circles and lines. The caged bird on the front cover is really symbolic.
Overall rating: 3.5/5 starfish