Imagine knowing that when you reach the age of 20, an unstoppable virus will take your life. It will also take the life of your twin brother when he reaches 25. Scientist unwittingly released this curse on the population through genetic engineering that left one generation virtually immortal, and the rest dying before they really get a chance to live.
For Rhine Ellery, this fact is all too real. At the age of 16, with only four years to go, she finds herself in a world in panic, where orphans freeze to death on her porch and girls are kidnapped in the middle of the night in order to be sold as brides. The world is desperate for new generations of children, before the previous ones all die.
Despite her care, Rhine is kidnapped and forced to be part of a polygamous marriage. She vows to escape. But, as she gets to know her sister wives, can she leave them behind? More importantly, can they be trusted?
To complicate matters, Rhine can’t bring herself to hate her husband Linden, who seems almost clueless, perhaps another pawn trapped in the world of wealth and illusion. Will he help her or get her killed? About to turn seventeen, Rhine must make a choice that will affect everyone. If she does escape, how much freedom is there in a world gone crazy.
Rhine’s world is chilling but also filled with sympathetic characters. It starts out strong, leaving you wanting to know more about this world. Unfortunately, the author left quite a few holes that need to be filled. Perhaps all will be answered in the subsequent books (Wither is the first of three books in the Chemical Garden series), but a little fleshing out of background and plot would benefit the readers.
Also, some of the characters act in ways that don’t seem to have logical motivations behind them. Why do some of them make the choices they do? It never becomes clear, which makes the story less believable. Still, because the premise and the beginning of the book is so strong, most readers will want to keep going until the end.
Because this is a book meant for teens, I want to mention that the subject of sex is mentioned though out the book. It never gets graphic, but there is hardly a chapter where sex doesn’t come in to play. A 13-year-old gets pregnant by a 21-year old man. I would only recommend this for older teens or adults.