Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011
Source: Received an ARC from publisher
Summary: In the future, the perfect child has been created without illness or deformity. Unfortunately he will die at 25 and she at 20, resulting in a world where wealthy families buy up poorer girls for polygamous marriages to ensure the continuation of their line. Rhine is one of those girls bought for Linden by his father Vaughn and taken into a world of immense privilege but without the thing she most desires: freedom.
I really liked the relationships between Rhine and her sister wives. The interplay of three women drafted into multiple marriage and struggling to figure it out was well-done. Rhine, Cecily, and Jenna had separate personalities and I was drawn to each of them. Cecily, grew up very poor and as the youngest, is also the most eager for this new life. Jenna, as the oldest, bears a particular grudge against Linden and Vaughn and waits only for her death. Rhine, in the middle, will die at the same time as Linden and serves as a reminder of his beloved first wife Rose.
Oddly Rhine felt the least real to me, despite the fact that she narrated the book. Sometimes she was worried about her twin brother who has no idea where she is but other times she seemed to forget about him; sometimes she's flirting with servant Gabriel; sometimes she's playing Linden and other times, she's genuinely concerned about him; sometimes she wants freedom and other times she seemed content to remain. I couldn't quite get a grasp on her and consequently I don't think I like her very much, which is kind of a problem for me. Linden was also somewhat of a cipher but his father Vaughn was a great villain-he freaked me out, even with very little page-time.
I originally thought of this book as dystopian but I would actually classify it more as science-fiction for a couple of reasons. One is that almost all of the people are very aware that this is not a utopian world; some are willing to make the best of it that they can but no one really thinks that circumstances are ideal. Two, the presence of science. Vaughn conducts many experiments on people in order to find that cure and the trilogy is even called "The Chemical Garden" hinting at the importance of science. Three, in my opinion, dystopian novels should have the greatest threat coming from the government with perhaps several characters providing the most menace as stand-ins. Here Vaughn is clearly the villain and he was a great villain with a very real menace that terrified me but as far as I could tell, he was not a stand-in for the government despite its turning a blind eye to whatever he does due to his talents and riches. Maybe other people would disagree but that's how I see it.
MINOR SPOILER: I did not like the ending. I could not believe that it happened with so little violence. I kept waiting for Vaughn to appear and add some real danger but I was left with a bit of a "that's all?" face. I guess it somewhat avoids the cliffhanger ending while still leaving you wondering what will happen next. The conclusion somewhat reminds me of the end of The Graduate where the guy and girl are left staring at each other, wondering "what now?" This ending is a bit more optimistic but as there are two more books coming, their peace will definitely be shattered.
Overall: I didn't really think the book would live up to its hype and cover and I don't think it's by any means awful, but I'm not sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the sequel. I'm also not disappointed in the time spent reading this and I would recommend it for the YA dystopian fans out there.
Cover: I know I've talked about this cover a lot so I will hold my tongue for now (But it's sooooooo pretty)
Read for YA Debut Authors Challenge.