I hate the colour grey.
I absolutely loathe it.
I hate that it is undefined and isn't bounded by a limit. It's deeper end merges into black and on the other hand, it fades into white. It's transient and unpredictable and I hate it.
When I read novels or watch a movie, I have to have an upfront bad guy and a good guy. I need the characters to be distinct and true to their image. It makes me jittery when lines are blurred and characters are steeped in both light and dark.
No, I'm not a control freak
So, imagine my delight when I did NOT abhor this one. It is exactly all the things I despise.
It is all grey
Nothing is defined.
There are no distinct lines.
No sharp differences.The Plot
The novel deals with a near future where Man has cured cured and prevented the transmission of STDs. Genes are manipulated so that the most healthy and strong infants are born. Everyone's perfect and life is good. But then, it is not. Something goes wrong. When this 'perfect' generation conceives, their offspring are born with a disease that reduces their life span drastically. Males die at 25 and females at 20.
Economy is plunging, poverty is skyrocketing.
Girls are being kidnapped and forced to bear children that can be used as guinea pig in the experiments to cure the disease.
Antidotes are being searched for desperately, but to no avail.
This is Rhine's world.
When prostitution and panhandling are such a commonplace event, they barely stir the news at all.
Where girls as young as 13 are forced to bear children and numerous die in the attempt.
When the newly born children are experimented on and killed.
Where polygamy is an accepted way of life.This is not a happy story.
It is heart- wrenching.
It is devastatingly sad.
It is harrowing and horrifying.
The story, the characters will pierce your heart and slowly, so slowly, rip it out.
I didn't like it initially but it grew on me with its subtle brilliance and poignancy.The Characters
The character development was simply superb. They are all just regular teenagers, trying to make out the best of the shitty situation they've been dished. They are not brazenly heroic or selfless because it would be obnoxious to expect that. They are not overly jocular or morose either. They are just..us.Rhine
Rhine is 16 and has been married to Linden along with Cecily(13) and Jenna(18). She has been confined to a grand mansion with all possible luxuries and material comforts. But it's not enough. It never is.
She years for her brother and freedom and home and even her downtrodden life in Manhatten. She is brave and practical and level headed. She is the girl who never stops fighting.
She is married to a man she hates but finds solace within the sprawling mansion in Gabriel, an attendant.
To be honest, I was expecting this to meander in Stockholm Syndrome. I was expecting Linden's obvious adoration for her and the comfortable life to soften her up. I was expecting her too forget where she came from and how she got here.
But she doesn't.
Rhine is dead set on escaping and having nothing to do with the loveless marriage.Other CharactersJenna
- Jenna is one of those people who are quiet and intuitive. She doesn't speaks much but her observation skills are outstanding. For her, marriage to Linden is purely sexual and nothing else. It was her way of escaping from her previous life and having a better place to die. That is it.
She is like an older, protective sister to her sister wives
- She is a naive child. She was the only one excited about her marriage to Linden. Raised in an orphanage all her life, she was blinded by all the rich and comfortable aspects of her
She is just a young girl who is excited at the prospect of a beautiful candy even if it is coated with poison.
Jenna was disposable one.Linden
Cecily was the baby factory.
And I was to be the apple of his eye.
- I hated him initially. I wanted to shake him and kick him and shout at him: How could he live with himself after ruining 3 girls' life?
But as the plot unravels, we get to know Linden is innocent.
Nope, not telling you why.
Hating on him was like kicking a puppy. He was sad and so fragile, like one harsh word would break him. He is compassionate and there is a lost boy feel to him that is really pitiful.Love Triangle
There is absolutely no doubt that the book harbors one. But of all the books I've read, this is one of the few where triangle is not introduced forcibly. It is not the obvious harbinger of misery and heartbreak and superfluous drama. It was natural. It was dealt with a level of maturity and levelheadedness that is rare in YA today.
And if you're still wondering, I'm 110% Team Gabriel.The Writing
Phenomenal. Vivid. Descriptive.
No fancy words, no unnecessary metaphors, no exaggerated hyperbole.
It is simple but yet so beautiful. It strikes a chord with you. The words flow and you are right there with Rhine, experiencing her fears, her hopelessness, her strengths, her joys, her happiness.Conclusion
I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone. Many people wouldn't like it, hate it's slow pace or clump it together with dystopian or label it cliched. I won't. I won't even attempt to narrow it down to a single genre. Because I can't. I could give you a rough approximation that it's similar to that book or this one, but i won't. It is unique in its own way and it would be gross injustice on my part to do so.
So, try it out if... Just if.
I can almost see what Gabriel meant when he asked, 'What has the free world got that you can’t get here?'
Freedom, Gabriel. That’s what you can’t get here.