Dystopian Thriller With Hints Of The Handmaid’s Tale

Dystopian is hot right now! Lauren DeStefano’s new series Chemical Garden tells the story of a future gone wrong when we experiment with birth and designer babies. The first generation did well, but their children started dying in their 20s. Men live to the ripe age of 25 and women don’t live to see 21. Girls are forced into polygamous marriages and held against her will. Sixteen year old Rhine is one of those girls. She and three others are brought to a mansion where they are to be the new brides of Governor Linden, the son of a wealthy doctor. Rhine is joined by Jenna who is 18 and Cecily who is 13. Cecily grew up in an orphanage and is obsessed with being a great wife and having lots of babies. Rhine wants nothing more than to escape. She is locked on a floor with her sister wives. She finds a friend in Rose, Linden’s first wife who is now 20-years-old and dying. Male servant, Gabriel, also brings Rhine comfort. But Linden may not be the evil man Rhine thought. As she becomes emotionally involved with him things become more complicated. She also grows to love her sister wives and fears what will happen to them when she escapes. This is a creepy book. I loved it and couldn’t put it down! Readers who loved Katniss’s fashions in the Hunger Games will love Rhine’s one-of-a-kind wardrobe. I can’t wait for the next installment! DeStefano shows us a world where feelings are not black and white and what we once believe is evil may not be at all.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Was it worth the risk for Rhine to run during the Hurricane?

What did you think was taking place in the basement lab?

Talk about Gabriel vs. Linden.

Why do you think Linden starts to have some appeal for Rhine?

Talk about the scientists vs. the naturalists. Who has the more compelling argument?

Talk about the different wives, which do you identify with?

Talk about the sister wives relationships with each other.

What is more important, the survival of the human race or individual freedoms?

How do you feel about Headmaster Vaughn experimenting on Rose and her baby?

Teen Read About Asperger’s Written With Great Insight and Sensitivity

I was reading Jennifer Roy’s Mindblind at an emotional time.  My daughter was just diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Roy has a child who is special needs and he inspired the main character, Nathaniel.  Nathaniel as Aspergers Syndrome, which is on the Autism Spectrum.  I am always fascinated by books that give us an inside glimpse into their view of the world.  Nathaniel refers to himself as an Aspie.  He has genius level intelligence in math formulas. He uses those formulas to help him understand the overwhelming social world around him.

Nathaniel is lucky, while his struggles with social skills makes relating to others challenging, he does have two great friends.  Jessa and Cooper have known him since he was a small child and accept him for who he is.  Not many Aspie’s can say that.  He is in a band with his friends and helps them write songs that will make them internet sensations.  He also has a good friend who is also on the spectrum named Molly.  They have weekly bowling dates.  It is facinating to hear them relate to each other.   Roy writes with great sensitivity.  This is a wonderful book for teens to gain an understanding of what it feels like to be an austistic teen.  Hopefully it will give them compassion and the willingness to befriend an Aspie.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

What do they know about Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Talk about his friendships with Cooper, Jessa and Molly.

Talk about how Nathaniel’s father made him go to the party.

Why do you think his father has such a hard time accepting him?

Talk about Nathaniel’s escape to his own world.  You don’t have to have ASD to want to do this.  How do you escape from stress?

Talk about You Tube videos and what makes them go viral.

Characters Constantly On The Run In Conclusion of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

I believe this is the final installment of The Forest Of Hand and Teeth, although I would be happy to be wrong.  Carrie Ryan’s The Dark and Hollow Places has the most action of the three books as the characters are either  being chased by the Unconsecrated or are in some other kind of danger seemingly at all times.  We meet up with Annah who has been in the Dark City alone for the last three years.  Elias left to join the recruiters and he should be back by now.    Annah decides to leave because anything would be better than staying alone and waiting for Elisa to return.  But as she leaves the city she catches a glimpse of a girl who could be her long lost twin, the one she left bleeding in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.    Her sister Abigail is with a man who is infected. She knows this because the dogs catch his scent and he is about to be arrested.  Instead he leaps into the river and Abigail is taken away.  Abigail is not quite the girl Annah remembers.  She became Gabry from The Dead Tossed Waves when Mary found her in the forest and took her to the city on the shore.  All this is happening as a horde begins to breach the  the Dark City’s defenses and a wall of zombies takes over the city.  That infected man is Catcher, another character from Book 2.  This book is filled with non-stop action, horror and cruelty.  Elias has also returned with Catcher and Gabry.  The recruiters need them to control Catcher, who is vital to their survival since he can walk among the dead without trouble.  Catcher, Gabry and Elias are being held at the Sanctuary, the seemingly only safe place around.  But it is full of evil men who hold cage matches between the Unconsecrated and humans as sport.  They also use them as human hamster wheels to power electricity.  Book 3 moves much faster than the other two.  It is an intense read that never loses its glimmer of hope.  I think that is what I love about the series the most.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

What does Ryan mean by Dark and Hollow Places?

When Gabry confesses to killing Daniel, Annah thinks about her scars. ” I stare at the way the tracks of her tears break across her jaw and along her neck, at how it looks like her face, once shattered, has been carefully put back together.  And I wonder if that’s what my scars really are:  proof that I’ve put myself back together again.”  Discuss.

What can someone’s scars say about a person?

Talk about the differences between Annah and Gabry.  Also, Catcher and Elias.

Talk about Annah’s relationship with Elias and Catcher.  How are the relationships different?  How are they the same?

Why would Ox pursue Annah even though it meant his death?

Talk about the drawings Annah did, first with the infected woman’s face paints and then the burnt stick charcoal drawings.

Talk about the soulers.

The infected woman begs Annah to kill her.  What would you do?

What do you think will happen now with the survivors?

If there was going to be a next book, how would you start it?