12 July 2012

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb -- males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty.  In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege.  Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape -- to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom.  Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments.  With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
When first hearing about Wither through the grapevine, I was sure I wasn't going to like it -- if I ever got around to picking it up in the first place.  So it was with some ironic amusement that I slid a copy off the shelf in Books A Million awhile ago and started reading.  When my friend tapped me on the shoulder a little while later, I was a little shocked to find myself riveted.  When I got home, with the main character still on my mind, I added Wither to my cart on Amazon.

It was surprisingly personal and in-depth.  Though there wasn't much to connect us, I felt a kinship with Rhine.  I was never irritated with her for any illogical choices she may have made.  I cheered for the success of her plans.  I was so into the ending that I didn't even hear my dad knocking on my door.  Rhine was effortless to understand and enjoy.  She never lost sight of her goal, she was never blindsided by a man, which I loved.

Lauren DeStefano's writing was as fantastic as Rhine; it really brought her character, the atmosphere and the idea to life.  There wasn't an overwhelming amount of abstract passages -- DeStefano tended to use sensory details that connected with an aspect of the main character's past experiences.  There was also an excellent thrill to the suspense.  I was absolutely riveted.  In dystopian, anything can happen.

I was also impressed by the idea.  On Lauren DeStefano's website, I read about how she came up with the seeds for Wither.  I particularly liked how she described herself as being "a weaver of what ifs".  Her tale of a world where women only live to twenty and men to twenty-five was extremely creepy and thought provoking and fortified by her subtly edgy writing style.  Every sentence embodied the world -- no word was wasted.  The layers of the setting (and characters) were numerous.  Like many dystopians, it very much felt like a dire prediction, so rich was the world in which Lauren DeStefano painted.

Overall, Wither was a very satisfying read.  I think seasoned readers of dystopians will find this one a breath of fresh air and I think I will greatly enjoy the second book, Fever.

He has no idea what this means to me, but by the look in his eyes I can tell he knows it must be something good.  He brushes the hair from my forehead and looks at me.  Rhine.  The river that, somewhere out there, has broken free. (p. 187)
It doesn't matter how much his mother loves him; love is not enough to keep any of us alive. (p. 331)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 358
  • published - March 2011
  • publisher - Simon & Schuster
  • genre - dystopian
  • received via - Amazon :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Chemical Garden trilogy
    • Wither
    • Fever
    • Sever