VOYA
“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” Or, in the case of this dystopian future science fiction debut, faulty genetic engineering is responsible for the end of civilization as we know it. After the first generation of genetically-perfect humans is born, their children start dropping like flies. All boys die at age twenty-five, and all girls at age twenty. The first generations are frantically trying to find a cure, before it is too late, for them and their descendants. Kidnapping, conducted by “Gatherers” who look for girls to sell to wealthy first generations, has become a way of life. The story begins when Rhine has been captured by Gatherers and is sold, along with two other girls, to a scientist and his son. Rhine becomes a sister wife to Linden, and the blond replacement for his beloved wife, Rose, who is dying as she has passed the age of twenty. The other two sister wives are Jenna, a dark-haired beauty, who’d rather join her murdered sisters, and red-headed orphan, Cecily, the only one excited at the prospect of marrying a wealthy man and living and dying in luxury. Brutal housemaster Vaughn is their true captor; his son, Linden, is as much a captive as his new brides. Although Cecily is the first to sleep with Linden and—at age fourteen—to give him a son, Rhine, who sleeps beside but never with her husband, is the one who becomes his glittering first wife. She is also the one who continually dreams of escape and comes up with a plan, involving a young male attendant who will do anything for her. This beautifully-written debut fantasy, with its intriguing world-building, well-developed characters and intricate plot involving flashbacks as well as edge-of-the-seat suspense, will keep teens riveted to the plight of Rhine and her sister wives. The compelling cover will draw them in and the cliffhanger ending will leave them eagerly awaiting volumes two and three of The Chemical Garden Trilogy. This thought-provoking novel will also stimulate discussion in science and ethics classes. Reviewer: B. Kunzel

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