Author: Lauren DeStefano. Release date: 2011. Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442409064.
Personal thoughts: I absolutely loved this novel! I was sort of apathetic about picking it up, but once I read the first chapter I was hooked. What an excellent start to an original new series! I love to see what different authors do with the whole dystopian concept, and I think that DeStefano really proved her literary prowess with this novel. I cannot wait to pick up the second book as soon as it is released! This is a must-read!
Plot summary: In sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery’s world, efforts to genetically engineer the perfect human race have created a terrible virus: all of the children of the first generation of the “master race” are destined to die early deaths; men at age twenty-five, women at age twenty. The virus has caused society to be pushed to the brink of anarchy. To avoid extinction, girls are forced into polygamous marriages to conceive as many children as possible. Teens as young as thirteen are rounded up by the dozens and sold to the highest bidder. Rhine has managed to survive on the streets of Manhattan with her twin brother, Rowan, but, unable to escape the fate of so many girls, finds herself kidnapped and living in the house of Vaughan Ashby and his son, twenty-year-old Linden. Along with two other girls, eighteen-year-old Jenna and thirteen-year-old Cecily, Rhine is abruptly married to Linden and living a glamorous life of captivity in the Ashby mansion. Determined to return to her brother, Rhine promises herself that she will find a way to escape the confines of her gilded prison. But when the time comes, will Rhine be able to abandon the sister-wives she has come to love or the handsome servant, Gabriel, who she quickly finds herself falling for?
Review: Debut author Lauren DeStefano’s first installment in her Chemical Garden trilogy proves within the first few pages to be a gripping, utterly original and thoroughly addicting masterpiece. DeStefano immediately immerses the reader in the horrors of Rhine’s world: society is on the brink of anarchy and girls are forced into lives of prostitution, kidnapping, and rape on a regular basis. The glitz and glamour of the mansion that Rhine finds herself living in creates an almost sickening juxtaposition with the reality of what is happening to Rhine and her sister-wives. The relationship between Linden Ashby’s three wives is arguably the crux of the story, although the romance between Rhine and her servant, Gabriel, and Rhine’s memories of her beloved twin-brother, Rowan, are also important plot elements. In creating such a vivid and complex story, DeStefano has really set the stage for a dystopian trilogy that will, in all likelihood, stay fresh through the following two novels. The sequel, Fever, is set to be released in February 2012. It will, no doubt, prove to be another wonderful installment in a very promising series equally enjoyable for teen and adult readers alike.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.
Themes: Dystopian, marriage, polygamy, sisters, kidnapping, murder, captivity, love.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews Booklist, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Series Information: First installment in Chemical Garden trilogy. Second novel, Fever, to be released in February 2012.
- Do you think that the future Rhine lives in could ever be possible? Why or why not?
- Who do you like better: Jenna or Cecily? Why?
- Do you think Linden is a bad person? Why or why not?
- What do you think Housemaster Vaughan was doing in the basement?
- If you were Rhine, would you try to escape? Why or why not?
- What would you like to see happen in the second novel, Fever?