What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
Why it’s my type: The cover and entire packaging of this book is stunning. The cover model, eyes downcast; the birdcage; the coloring on front and back–at once dark and enticing; the geometric shapes which accent the cover, text, and new chapters and seem to call to mind DNA, or chemical bonds, or something scientific (I’m no expert in); the wilting flower: Everything beautiful and serving a further purpose besides. I am a huge fan of book design and in this case I’m turquoise-green like the book’s back-cover with envy over the designer(s’) ideas. All this alone would have sold me in a bookstore had I not been the very grateful recipient of an arc.
When it comes to the story, there are undeniable similarities between it and The Hunger Games, which I loved. Not the central idea, but many of the details, especially in the illusion of rags to riches that the protagonist goes through and the ignorant people she encounters along the way. Collins’ ‘prep team’ comes to mind during Rhine’s makeovers. I love the idea that no matter how bad things become, there will always be people who pretend they are not so. Because this is true and believable; there are.
The writing is fresh and imaginative. And I really feel as if two great things were accomplished in my reading this. 1. I was totally transported into this world created by DeStefano, even remaining entranced while football blared simultaneously in the same room, and 2. I felt that most questions which occurred to me were sufficiently answered. Now, not all of them, of course. But I’m hoping the next two will take care of that for me. I’m very eager to see where this story goes next.
Memorable bit(s): The story compelled me to consider, more than once, my own mortality and that of those closest to me. I really like when a book makes me do something like that–occasionally brings me out of its world in order to show me how I can use its story to connect with those who inhabit mine more fully.
A couple poignant literary references come to mind. I won’t mention them here for fear of spoiling.
Recommendation: Those who enjoy gothic and dystopian tales will most likely latch onto this one, and will enjoy and be moved not just by Rhine’s story, but by those full stories of her sister-wives as well.
Publish date: March 22 2011 by Simon and Schuster Children’s.