Author: Lauren DeStephano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date: March 22, 2011
Pages: 358 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fertility, Polygamy
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking 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 kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. 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 is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?
Cover and Title Critique: I like this cover. It was what first attracted me to the books. The broken down doll look of the girl fits so well with Rhine and her character. I can’t pretend to not find it beautiful and haunting. Well done Simon and Schuster. I know I complain about the pretty girls on the covers but there is something haunting about this cover. I like it–bordering on love it.
Alice says: OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!
Ok…I have a love and hate relationship with this book. I read through it really quickly because it reads like a fun read–think Davinci Code. That makes for light, fun reading, but this is not light fun reading. I hate getting all dark and GOLLUM up in here but Wither has to receive my lowest score because it glorifies some of the most horrible things in my world–child rape and child marriage. There is a time and place for these things in dystopia, but it takes a strong author to repeatedly condemn them. Oh wait, no it doesn’t. Even a five-year-old knows to condemn these things. This can not go unnoticed and it can not go tween love story glorified. DeStefano’s world is creepy and sad and wonderfully dystopian but she begins her world by marrying off Rhine and her sister brides, a 13-year-old and 18-year-old, to Linden and not drawing some clear lines. These are forced marriages. This is clearly wrong–it will NEVER BE OK. Rhine and Cecily’s are statutory rapes if and when consummated. Jenna’s is rape. All of it is abuse of women, their bodies, their free will, and their unimaginable positions in a horrible world. Even with the rape and forced marriages–ok, its dystopia–fine lines, or even blurry lines, are not drawn about how it is wrong. There are flowers and Lisa Frank stickers all over the place about how it MIGHT not be the worst think in the world. Is this a joke? Am I on hidden camera YA Book Edition? The author proceeds with her story telling in a way that I can not pretend was not romanticized. Linden and his shiny black hair and sad eyes now lives in a world where any 14-year-old reading might confuse these him and these convoluted relationships as normal or romantic (a million times worse than when it was deemed ok to have Edward sneaking into Bella’s room and watching her sleeping without her permission). Money, doe eyes, and looks are made to soften the blows of horror–they are used to confuse Rhine, the reader, and obviously the author.
In reagrds to the plot, there is intrigue and mystery in regards to why the virus kills all the new generation at 20 and 25 and outrage at how the older generation is using young “brides” to populate the wealthier survivors with “younguns” to keep the human race going. The grotesque imagery of older men buying young brides for themselves and for their many sons is worthy of discussion and did give me chills–I just could not get over the building of a love story/triangle in this horribleness and trying to hand this down to the reader. Without handing out spoilers–it just was not PLAUSIBLE. It was impossible. It was really pathetic. I don’t think I’ve ever been that annoyed with anyone romanticizing something so harmful to women (or men–Rhine was taken from her twin brother and sees the virus harming everyone–particularly the young (the poor young?)). It was like looking at Atwood through a lens she would be horrified by.
I don’t have an opinion on Rhine because she seems unreal. Everything is spelled out for me by the author. I am told she loves her brother tremendously, that she is trying to escape, that she is daring and smart–but she does not act like it. She is very one-dimensional and very dense. Her inability to see Linden as an agent to her horror makes her one-dimensional.
So, what did I like (to make me say I had a love hate relationships?) I think the groundwork for a world that I could have like is laid. I think the issues are all in Rhine and the decisions she makes (or should I say what is decided for her by the writing). I have never said that before which feels weird. Maybe the second book will redeem this one–I don’t know. I don’t see how but I am not one to leave a story on the first book–especially one that makes me this furious. Ugh. I will have to read the second one to see what is going on. Like I said, there is a great foundation for a dystopian world, but Rhine acts like a love-sick confused girl who does not seem to understand the world around her, the horrors around her–what is being done to her sister-wives and herself. Does the author? I hate picking on an author–I never have– but I have serious beef. I hope the sequel redeems itself and doesn’t turn into a taboo celebrating trashy novel again but I don’t want to get my hopes up.
Rabbit says: Ages 14 and up.
I could not find an age recommendation for this book. I leave it at at least 14 and up. There is child rape and continuous rape and romanticization of rape and child marriage (child brides) in this book. Dystopia does not make it any better. There is the constant discussion of older men with younger women. Just because Linden is younger does not make it any better. I can’t wrap my head around it. Even the publisher description says that Rhine can’t bring herself to hate Linden, a boy who rapes a very young girls. I am sorry but I draw the line in dystopia there. I would hope 14 is old enough to understand how horrible the themes being discussed and romanticized by the author are in this book but I also hope that parents are aware that these themes are becoming prevalent in books, though other authors and reviewers have condemned this book as well. The idea of girls as wombs is condemned more heavily than the rape so at least that is dealt with well.
Caterpillar says: Manor of Horrors
Ok…so this was just a weird book, but it did bring up so many different topics. SPOILER ALERT!
1. This reminded me so much of the child brides that have been taken out of fundamentalist compounds lately (which is why the making it romantic bugged the F*&#$ out of me). This felt like a carnivalesque fun-house discussion on compound polygamy. Did anyone else get this feeling?
2. Another fertility genre book–any thoughts on why this is emerging?
3. Is Linden a villain? Does he willingly participate in murder? In the experiments?
4. How does Cecily read to you? Does she read like a child? Does she read like an adult? Does she have agency? Is she a villain? A victim?
5. Does there seem to be a discussion of rich vs. the poor here? Is DeStephano commenting on how only the rich will rise above?
Am I the only one who found this book so disturbing? Paint the Roses!!