by Lauren DeStefano
In the not-so-far future, every continent apart from North America has been annihilated by nuclear warfare. For a time afterwards America was like a utopia- cancer and other diseases erradicated, only perfectly healthy babies born due to genetic manipulation. Then the dark reality sets in- those born in the next generation die in their early twenties. All of them.
What this means for the story is that our main character finds herself kidnapped at age sixteen, taken to a mansion and coerced, along with three other girls, to marry a wealthy man who is among the desperate- they want to breed as many children as possible in hopes of finding a cure before humanity dies out. The main character is one of these girls kidnapped to be a bride. She is suddenly jerked from being in poverty and uncertainty to living in luxury and being well-cared for. But she isn\’t free, she\’s not happy, and she knows when she\’s going to die…
It\’s an interesting idea, but this one didn\’t work for me. The characters were uninteresting. I never got a sense of them as real people. And I didn\’t quite buy the premise. If everyone was suddenly dying young, would the reaction of wealthy men really be to kidnap young girls and marry them in order the get lots of progeny? To me it was an odd idea. Another issue I had was that the story is told a lot in flashbacks, so the background events are revealed in pieces. I prefer my narrative to be linear. I think if I\’d had chapters describing the chaos, the sudden flux of orphans when people started dying, the struggles the main character faced before suddenly being shoved into this mansion… it would have made more of an impact for me.
But again, I\’m not the target audience for this book. It\’s the kind of thing my near-twelve-year-old might gobble up. Except when I started to tell her about the premise (to see if she wanted to read it before I return it to the library) she said \”wait, so all these girls are getting raped by a rich guy?\” Well… they got married to him, but against their will, so yeah, rape. The whole idea of it is pretty distasteful once you start seeing past the descriptions of opulence hand-in-hand with oppression. However, as far as I read in the book, I didn\’t come across any sex scenes at all. The girls discuss consummation, who spent the night when with their husband, one of them gets pregnant, that\’s it. I can\’t be sure though- I started to feel distracted around thirty pages in, and just skimmed a bunch after that before ditching this one.
Abandoned 374 pages, 2011