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. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/10/2011 Release date: 03/01/2011 Genre: Children's
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