Book #1 of The Chemical Garden Trilogy
By Lauren DeStefano
(Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Hardcover, 9781442409057, March 2011, 368pp.)
The Short of It:
As fun as a book about death and dying can be!
The Rest Of It:
In the not too distant future, women are dying at the age of 20 and males by the age of 25. Only the First Generation can outlive them, and although many have tried to come up with an antidote for the virus that takes their young, so far…no one has been successful. In an effort to save the human race, young girls are abducted and forced to be sister wives who share one husband. Their goal? To produce as many children as possible before dying.
After her parents are killed in a lab explosion, sixteen-year-old Rhine is abducted and forced to marry Governor Linden, who is twenty-years-old and approaching his twilight years. Rhine is a beauty with very unusual eyes. It’s because of her eyes, and her likeness to another girl named Rose, that she is chosen as a bride. However, when she arrives at the house she realizes that she is only one of three new wives and that a fourth is on her deathbed.
Although Governor Linden is actually quite likable, his father, Housemaster Vaughn is anything but! His presence in the house makes Rhine very uncomfortable and when one of her sister wives has a baby, Rhine becomes concerned over what is being done to the baby. Add to that her attraction to a handsome attendant by the name of Gabriel and Rhine finds herself conflicted over what she needs to do.
Polygamy is a loaded topic and DeStefano tackles it successfully. At times, the idea of young, pregnant brides is disturbing, but with the human race dying out as it is, somehow the idea isn’t so bad. The topic is handled delicately and there is nothing overly graphic or violent contained within these pages. I’d say that the target age range of 14+ is accurate.
From an adult perspective, I found the book utterly readable and fun. There’s the whole class struggle thing going on, as well as the conflict that being a sister-wife creates. It was a quick read, and the pages flew by and at the end I found myself looking forward to book #2. If you like to delve into YA now and then and like dystopian fiction but not necessarily the violence, then this might be a good book for you.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
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