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?

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