By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek 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 sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet 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 has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.
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 listened to this as an audio book on my Ipod as I ran. The story was so engrossing there were times I was willing to run for longer just to keep listening. Lately I feel like all the YA books I've read have been dystopian. I recall seeing this one reviewed on a number of blogs months back, probably around it's release time at the beginning of 2011. I added it to my TBR list, but it can take me quite a while to get to all the books I want to read.
This book painted a scary portrait of the world, where some sort of fluke with the first generation has caused all of their children to have shortened lifespans. The first generation were test tube babies. One thing I kept wondering, and wondering if I had missed while listening, is why that generation then decided to have children without using any artificial means. If there was a problem why not go back to DNA from before to see if things could be fixed rather than doing the same thing over and over with the same results. Perhaps that would not have made for such a good story, or maybe I missed that when listening.
Another inaccuracy in the book was that once a baby has been fed formula it will not be willing to nurse again. While I did not use formula with my children I know plenty of families who use a combination of formula and breast milk/nursing and have no problems switching between the two. That point made me cringe because this book is for YA readers and I hate for that idea to get stuck in their heads. Done with my soapbox now, that isn't really the point of the story just an issue that rubbed me the wrong way.
Rhine goes out one day one her own, which she usually never does sticking with her twin brohter, Rowen, for safety. She is hoping to find a job to help her brother in providing for them. They spend all their time and energy on surviving. Instead of finding a job, Rhine is sold to be a bride of a wealthy governor who lives in a totally different state. Once there she and her two new sister wives are held on a floor of the house with their bedrooms locked, they are forced to marry a man they do not know, and are then given some freedoms within the property. The two other new wives were both from orphanages, while Rhine and her brother had continued to live in the home of their parents after their death.
Rhine gets to know and like her sister wives and comes to understand her new husband, who is dealing with the sickness and death of his first wife and love when they enter his home. After the life she lived of worrying for survival all the time, this lief is luxurious, with servants and technology and no need to work. It is easy to get distracted by everything, but then she will remember her brother and how she got to where she is and she is determined to find a way to run away and get home to her brother and New York.
Imagine knowing your death is so close when you have barely lived? What would you be willing to do to live those years as you wish? It will be interesting to see where this series goes in book two which comes out at the end of this month.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 3/22/2011
Edition description: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Age range: 14 - 17 Years
Series: Chemical Garden Series, #1