Perfect children through science! But their descendants die young, always. Wealthy, long-lived first-generation families use teenage girls to bear children for them, in case research finds a cure. Before the girls die at 20, the boys at 25…
The Gatherers prowl the cities, “choosing” teen girls for the Families, so Rhine and her twin brother are always on the lookout, especially after their researcher parents were murdered. But the Gatherers get Rhine anyway, and the color of her eyes saves her from death… saves her to be a sister-wife with 3 other girls, a sister-wife to Linden who has only a few years to live.
Even while trying to discover ways to escape his luxurious Florida estate, Rhine accidentally befriends Linden’s First Wife, his childhood sweetheart, who is quickly dying of the virus before their eyes. Linden’s father is a doctor, sure that he’ll find a cure for the killer virus before long, before his grandchildren die young like their parents.
Is there any way for Rhine to let her brother know she’s alive? Can she escape this elegant scientific experiment? Is there any hope of a cure, or will humanity wither away if the perfect First Gens are really the final generation?
This first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy takes place in a United States that’s barely hanging on after World War Three has blasted the other continents to rubble.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA
In a future where a virus kills girls at twenty and boys at twenty-five, Rhine is kidnapped by Gatherers to be a bride, while she’s still young enough and healthy enough to have children. As one of three wives to a wealthy young architect, she lives a life of luxury, but it cannot make up for her forced separation from her twin brother, or for the deaths of the other girls who weren’t chosen to be brides. Despite her fear of her new father-in-law, who is desperately searching for a cure to the virus, even stealing corpses to experiment on, Rhine is determined to escape the mansion and make her way back home. Can she break free? Or will she be trapped in the gilded cage forever?
Recommended by Sarah Loch, Librarian
What would you do if you knew that your life was over after only 20 years? Sixteen-year-old Rhine doesn’t get the chance to decide for herself in this first book of a projected trilogy. Stolen away from her twin brother Rowan and forced to move to an isolated mansion to marry a complete stranger who has two additional wives, Rhine feels helpless and trapped. Although her new husband Linden is kind-hearted, Rhine knows she must escape from Linden’s father Vaughn, who has a secret lab in the basement of the mansion. Vaughn’s experiments to cure the illness that takes the life of each 20-year-old woman and 25-year-old man are secretive and potentially dangerous. Rhine quickly finds that Vaughn is not a man to cross when one of her new friends mysteriously disappears. This science fiction novel raises many questions about the value of life verses science, while showcasing the diverse relationships that arise in a teenage polygamous marriage. Thoughtful teens that enjoy dystopian fiction or edgy romances will dive enthusiastically into Rhine’s world.
Reviewer's note: Definitely high school, not middle school. While the sexual encounter is not explicitly discussed, it is central to the murder case & some characters' moral values are rather "fast and loose" (SPOILER - some seemingly good-guys turn out to be bad-guys) - ages 15+ will handle this at their own maturity level.
Recommended by Carrie Shaurette, Librarian