Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Age Group:Young Adult
Pages (Hardcover): 358
Series: The Chemical Gardens (Book 1)
Author: Website | Twitter
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 limited time she has left.
With intelligent and beautiful prose, the reality that DeStefano creates in her debut novel, Wither, is remarkably intense. On the brink of perfection, disaster strikes and now plagues the children of the children of the world and perpetuates the forced action of young girls to become mothers.
The characters, starting with Rhine, are all completely well rounded and very solid. Rhine's strength is something that is immediately demonstrated in the book and her will to survive and be free is a constant theme. DeStefano has created a strong history for Rhine, we are always learning about her parents and her twin brother Rowan. Through her connection to her family, Rhine is caring and open to people that she begins to interact with; Linden, Gabriel, Cecily, and Jenna.
Her sister wives are indivually crafted to be unique. I loved Cecily, it was such a nice turn of events to see a girl, a child in fact, be so willing to partake in the customs or lifestyle that is set before her. Cecily was such a complex support character, her changes through the book were astounding and a central part to Rhine's emotions. Rhine's love of her new family ebbs and flows as she struggles with adapting and craving freedom. She worries and cares for the well being of all of her family, including Linden.
Against most odds, I was "Team Linden", his sincerity towards all of his wives was not fake or covered in chauvinism, he was genuine in his care for all three of the girls and his son. He is not at fault to fall so unknowingly to the cruelty of the world; Rhine can see and understand his naivete, making her only more lost in her emotions. Linden's depth is so profound, he would have given Rhine the world on a silver platter and there are times I thought she would let him.
The story in this book has a rigid setting, taking place almost entirely in the manor, though it doesn't hinder the progression, pace, or entertainment. It is so carefully constructed that there are times the plot doesn't seem linear, that there will the surprise ending. There are clues to the mystery, the confusion of emotion, the devotion amongst wives, etc. All these things are circling one another, turning on top of each other, until the end. There was no way to predict the choices that would be made until the moment of decision.
This book leaves plenty of mysteries to be unravelled in the remaining two books and ends with a gentle setup rather than a cliffhanger. I am very interested in seeing where DeStefano takes the story of Rhine in Fever.
Rating out of 5: