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Book 1, Chemical Garden Trilogy, The

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What if you knew exactly when you’d die? The first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek 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 sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet 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 has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 10, 2011 – Opening the Chemical Garden trilogy, DeStefano's harrowing debut initially comes across as The Handmaid's Tale for YA readers. DeStefano, however, forgoes larger social analysis to depict the personal impact of a dystopian future on Rhine and Gabriel, teenagers with a handful of years to live. Science gave 21st-century America one generation of perfect babies; since then, war has destroyed the other continents, and a virus that kills girls by 20 and boys by 25 has ravaged subsequent generations. Healthy teenage girls are prized as breeding stock, and Rhine is kidnapped and forced into a polygamous marriage with the wealthy Linden Ashby, in whose palatial Florida home Gabriel is a servant. Pampered but imprisoned, Rhine only wants to get back to her twin brother, Rowan, in gritty Manhattan. And as Gabriel's furtive relationship with Rhine grows, he begins to share her dream of escape. DeStefano has an observant and occasionally pitiless eye, chronicling the cruelties, mercies, and inconsistencies of her young characters. The larger world is less precisely realized; it will be intriguing to see how DeStefano develops it as this promising trilogy progresses. Ages 14–up. n

Customer Reviews


Couldn't put the book down. I was compelled to find out if she would really be able to escape the mansion, and who she would truly love. Can't wait for book 2.


This book is exactly the kind of book I have been waiting for. I am amazed by her talent and I want to read so much more from this author. I can't wait for the next book!!!

Simple, could have been better

I understand that this is a debut for the author, but thats all the more reason to really make this book epic. But it wasn't horrifically awful either - simply put, it was an okay read but not memorable.
First, there is signs that This author could be really promising in future, but I don't think this series is where she'll find it. Certain prose she wrote in the book stuck out to me, and set the needed mood. She has a nice way of sharing her story.
But, that never completely carries a book. And this book's main fault was lack of character development. Rhine, the main character, is likable, but her motives are not always clear and her explanations as to why she feels the need to run away are unfounded. I did find it a little awkward how attached she was to her brother. Her relationship with brother Rowan seemed unhealthy, extremely co-dependant. She had the chance to make a new life after The Gatherers captured her, but she was completely absorbed with the idea of leaving her husband and sister-wives.
Linden, her husband, was intriguing and I wanted Rhine to love him as much as she seemed to want to, but she refused to since she was planning to leave him ASAP.
Gabriel, her real love interest, seemed unnecessary and a little forced. The few moments that Rhine got to be with Gabriel weren't enough for me to believe in their love for one another.
The supporting cast of characters outside of them were well-defined and I really enjoyed Jenna, one of the sister-wives.
The last bone I have with this story is the fact that females die exactly at twenty and males at twenty-five. It was a little contrived, a little too unbelievable, this epidemic in humanity that was killing everyone off at a rapid pace.
As for my invested interest in this series, I think I will pass on the second book in the trilogy because many have commented on how it is practically the same plot of getting caught and having to plan another escape.
When the third book is released, I may read it to see if it addresses my unanswered questions, but I'm not holding my breath for it as I never felt fully invested in this story.
Kudos to the author for doing something that didn't involve vampires and werewolves, and for coming up with something different than Hnger Games, but it does fall short of being just as great as those books.

Other Books in This Series

View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Level: Grades 9 and Above
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Coming of Age
  • Published: Mar 22, 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Seller: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Series: Book 1, Chemical Garden Trilogy, The
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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