The Chemical Garden Trilogy
by Lauren DeStefano
The Overview: [I’m only including the overview for the first book to help avoid spoilers for those who haven’t yet started it] By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape.
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the lines I became addicted to the type of story that I’m affectionately referring to as “girls in pretty dresses in a slightly dystopic era” genre (I should really come up with a better catchphrase). It seems like a weirdly specific subgenre to like (I blame the Selection by Kiera Cass), but I have absolutely LOVED almost every single book I’ve read so far within it (see my “Other books you might like” list below). I can’t even tell you why I love it – maybe I get a vicarious kick out of being pampered and doted on through these characters, but the real substance comes with the realization that even in the glamorous life, things are never as perfect as they seem…
This trilogy was remarkable and unique in a couple of different ways. For example, the vast majority of YA novels include a love triangle as one of the primary conflicts of the story. While there were two men involved in this series, and some people might consider it to be a triangle (I don’t), the story was always ever about Rhine and her struggle to find her brother… her male counterparts were ultimately incidental to that struggle. It was wonderful because it showed female lead who’s whole world didn’t revolve around a boy, and who proved capable and resourceful enough on her own. Because of this, I’m calling the love story in this trilogy atypical, and in fact found myself more emotionally invested in Rhine’s relationships with the other captive women than I did the main love interest. It’s worth mentioning that I genuinely liked the male interests in the story, I just appreciated that they weren’t the ultimate focus of the book.
So, now that we’ve established how much I loved story and the character, let’s talk about the main reason why I’m still gushing about this trilogy in particular – the writing. Oh my gosh, the WRITING! It’s breathtaking, beautiful, lyrical, and poetic without being pompous and convoluted. This trilogy is more than a dystopian, it’s a work of art. I don’t usually reread passages simply because I think they’re beautiful, but I found myself doing just that several times throughout. The fact that she was often writing about tragic events with such beautiful language only makes it more poignant. The aspiring writer in me wants to be Lauren DeStefano when I grow up. Because of her beautiful writing voice, I am 100% committed to reading anything she publishes in the future, I don’t care what the subject matter is. I’ve already ordered a copy of Perfect Ruin – I can’t wait!
Overall, The Chemical Garden Trilogy is now among my all-time YA favorites and I can definitely see myself rereading it one day. My overall rating for the series is 4.5/5 stars, but for the individual books is as follows:
Wither – 5/5 stars!
Fever – 4/5 stars
Sever – 4.5/5 stars
Other books you might like:
While I enjoyed Matched, it is not one of my all-time favorites… more books like this need to be written!