BOOK DESCRIPTION: At age 16, Rhine Ellery has four years to live. Thanks to a botched effort to create a perfect race, all females live to age 20 and males live to age 25. On the cusp of her 17th birthday, Rhine attempts to flee, but what she finds is a society spiraling out of control. (First book in The Chemical Gardens trilogy.)
MY OPINION: Sigh. This is another one of those books that felt like a dream to me, the edges all milky and blurred by sunlight. DeStefano's writing style is beautiful, only comparable to things like cherry blossoms and cosmic dust. Her words all seem to trail after one another, blending together, creating sentences and phrases that taste like sugar as they roll off your tongue.
Don't misunderstand, though. This is not a happy story. While there are scenes and characters and settings that make me smile until my mouth hurts, there is always this constant, dark undertone being woven throughout the novel, and it's fantastic. I liked that Rhine let herself relax and have fun and make friends, but that she never forgot the circumstances of her whereabouts. She never forgot that she was there against her will and she never forgot that she had a brother, out there, looking for her.
Rhine is a good character, although, in my mind, she is not the most memorable. She seems to lose herself in the sea of strong-willed, butt-kicking YA heroines and I don't think she has enough strength to swim to shore. One thing that I can tell you, though, is that she is likable. Her voice is fresh and hazy and even though I don't agree with some of her choices, I can still see why she made them and why they make sense.
There were a lot of secondary characters that I liked being in the presense of. Cecily and Jenna were Rhine's two sister wives and they were both extremely interesting. While in the beginning I found Cecily annoying, as I went through the book I couldn't help but fall in love with who she was and why she was that way. They both seemed like very real and fleshed out characters and they were very vivid as I continued to read.
The one thing that I didn't agree with at all was Rhine's choice of love interest. There were two male characters that she could have potentially ended up with, one being Linden and another that you'll be introduced to when reading the story. I felt like the second one was a flat character, only created to stir the waters between Linden and Rhine, but apparently he wasn't. Apparently, he was a legitimate contender for Rhine's love but I didn't feel any electricity humming between them, I didn't see any spark. That was the one thing I found very disappointing. There's not much to say about our villain. He was very well-written. He scared me, he really did, and he was a much better villain than some of the one's I've read. Much, much better.
The fact that everyone only lives until twenty or twenty five is the most terrifying concept of this book and it added an element of suspense that was hard to get away from. Even though I knew that she had four years left to live, there was a sort of fragility in all of the characters and it was very interesting to see how it would all end up.
I can't go into too much depth, but in short, this book was absolutely phenomonal. I adored it. It was one of those books that I never wanted to end and when it did, I was left feeling a little bit emptier inside. I am so excited now that the sequel Fever is hitting the shelves. You can bet your life that I'm going to be picking that one up.