16 year old Rhine is a twin, living in a world where genetic engineering and tinkering has ended in women dying at the age of 20, and men at the age of 25, killed by a horrific virus. To make matters worse, girls are kidnapped off the streets and sold into polygamous marriage for the elite. After being kidnapped Rhine is sold to become 21 year old Linden's wife, along with 13 year old Cecily, and 18 year old Jenna. But after talking to Linden's dying wife Rose, who has just turned 20, and other members of staff, including 18 year old Gabriel who she is instantly drawn to, she starts to realise that things in the house aren't all what they seem.
The reason I put the ages of all the characters in the above summary is because I found the ages shocking. I'm 20 years old now, it is scary to think that in this dystopian world I would currently be dying of a horrendous virus, well more realistically I would be dead, my 21st is next month.
The telling of the story seems to focus in on what has caused the problems in the world, this genetic engineering that has caused early death, probably because Rhine is so concious of it. Almost straight away you see a character, Rose, suffering from the virus, and some of the descriptions make it sound like she is old and frail and then there will be a reminder that she is only 20 and it brings back the shock. There's also the finality of it, Rhine wants to get away and live the rest of her life outside of the house where she is being held.
The love triangle that you tend to get in young adult dystopian fiction is slightly skewed from normal. Rhine is kidnapped and forced to marry Linden, but as the novel progressed you could see how she at least cared what Linden thought, and as she got to know him she started to understand him and his motives. In complete contrast there is Gabriel, who is a member of the staff, she seems almost immediately drawn to him, but what I liked about their relationship was it progressed, at one point even explicitly saying that they were friends, and they acted like it. It was refreshing not to have the whole love at first sight connection thing.
I found the dynamic between the sister wives a little odd at first, after a few days Rhine became best friends with Rose, and then she was good friends with Jenna, and despite Cecily's frequent tantrums, nobody actually hates her and she doesn't seem to hate anyone. There seems to be no jealousy or rivalry particularly. Though this could be believable as the girls all went through similar things, I found it a little hard to believe that three girls cooped up on one floor didn't have more cat fights and fallouts, particularly when they are teenagers!
This book was definitely not what I expected (though I can't explain what that was), but I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next one, hopefully it will be soon!