Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: Chemical Garden #1
Published: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 358 (hardcover)
I purchased this book.

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being 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 Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left. --


So, after hearing about this book for months, I FINALLY got my hands on a copy and made time to read it. But to be honest, even now I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, DeStefano’s writing is brilliant, and her characters deep. Wither’s sister-wives bare their souls across the pages without actually ripping off their shirts and screaming, “THIS IS ME,” at the top of their lungs followed by a check list of facts. Through Rhine’s eyes, the reader really gets a good sense of the horror of the world that these people live in. I mean, knowing when you’re born that you’re only going to live to be twenty or twenty-five is scary as hell, and how these characters manage to stay hopeful or find joy (especially after being kidnapped) is amazing. It’s clear that everyone is a victim of this post-apocalyptic world,which DeStepano does an incredible job sharing with the reader without actually showing the world (since Rhine is trapped inside for most of the time). As frightening as it is to admit, I could actually see DeStefano’s world become a reality, since genetic engineering is such a hot topic right now.

However, by the end of the book I didn’t feel like anything really happened. There is a lot of waiting, a lot of mourning, and a lot of wishful thinking that goes on, but beyond guess there’s a cocktail party or two. Here’s the scoop: after Rhine gets kidnapped, she’s married off to Linden to become one of three new wives. She decides that the best way to escape to freedom is to earn Linden's trust and become the new first wife, after which she'll have a number of new resources and opportunities to run away. However, there’s one major thing standing in her way, and that’s Linden’s father (who, for some reason, I pictured looking like Frollo from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame). I think this is where the source of my disappointment comes from. Everyone kept making references to the awful things he’d do to people in the book if they tried to escape, and I know they were all afraid of him, but to be honest, I just couldn't see why. We never see him punish anybody--just make some threats--and by the end, I just didn’t believe he was as scary or as much of a danger as everyone said he was. If Rhine really wanted to, she probably could have found a way to stand up to (or even physically fight) him sooner, which might have made for a more exciting read. But as he was, he wasn't around enough to be an actual obstacle in the plot. Sorry, I really don't mean to complain, but I love me some character conflict!

So overall, did I like the book? Yes. I did, and it’s another one that will get shelved with the other scary post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels that seem to be congregating on my shelf. But was it a favorite? No. Will I still read the sequel? Yes. I just wish that a little more happened in this first installment. Regardless, I recommend it, especially if you were a big fan of Ally Condie’s Matched.