Monday, August 29, 2011


Lauren DeStefano
Chemical Garden, Book 1

In the future, we cure cancer and all sorts of other diseases. On the downside, whatever changes science effects to make humanity immune to these illnesses causes their descendants to have vastly shortened lifespans - males live to twenty-five, females to twenty. While the first generation - those who were originally altered and have a normal human lifespan - work desperately to find a cure, their children and grandchildren live in a harsh dystopian world. Rhine and her twin, Rowan, are relatively well-off, but then Rhine is kidnapped to be an unwilling bride for the extravagantly wealthy Linden, a practice not uncommon for the rich. Rhine misses her brother and wants nothing more than to return home because, while her husband and sister wives aren't so bad, her father-in-law is ruthless and cruel.

I apologize for that description only applying to the first few chapters, but that was as far as I could go objectively. I really wanted to like this book. I heard a lot of good things about it, and I found the premise intriguing, but when it came to the actual story, it lacked both believability and movement. I found Rhine's motivations and actions throughout her tale to be incomprehensible and incompatible.

When Rhine arrived in Florida, she seemed desperate to get home and willing to do whatever it took to get there. And then she spent the next few months doing...absolutely nothing. Yes, sure, she was earning her new family's trust so she could do...something, but she never even tried, not even when she had an opportunity to escape. Furthermore, not once did Rhine show any real anger toward the Ashbys, even when Linden was being an idiot (which happened on numerous occasions). Her strange affection for Linden came out of nowhere and for no discernable reason. I could have understood if she pitied rather than despised him, but I never quite get how she liked him.

Even Rhine's determination to return to her brother seemed out-of-place in comparison with her memories of him. They had completely different worldviews, and he constantly overruled her; at least, that was the impression her recollections gave. Since she obviously wasn't totally miserable in the story, why did she want to go back so badly?

Plotwise, there wasn't a whole lot of action. There were some dresses, and makeup, and parties, and also pregnancy and illness. On its own, lack of action isn't necessarily terrible. You can have a good book where not all that much happens if the characters are good. It also helps to include many snappy comebacks. Unfortunately, Wither had none of these things.

Characters: 2 cupcakes
Plot: 2 cupcakes
Style: 3 cupcakes
Overall: 2 cupcakes

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