Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Wither

Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy - Book 1) by Lauren DeStefano

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Genre: Dystopian YA
Pages: Hardcover, 358pp
ISBN-13: 9781442409057

(Received for review from Simon & Schuster)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Lauren DeStefano on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from

Book Trailer:

Synopsis (Book Blurb):


Males only live to age twenty-five and females only live to age twenty. To keep the population from dying out, girls are kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriages.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine is taken, she enters a world of wealth and privilege that both entices and terrifies her. She has everything she ever wanted - except freedom. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is becoming dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to escape. BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.


Dystopian books are all the rage right now in YA literature, from
The Hunger Games to Delirium and now Wither. Wither is the debut novel from author Lauren DeStefano, who sets the YA world on it's ear with this complex and engaging plot. What will our world be like in the distant future? DeStefano gives readers a plausible, if brutal idea of what could happen if genetic engineering gets out of hand. This is a book that will make readers think, make them feel uncomfortable and perhaps change their perceptions of what it means to be human.

Rhine Ellery lives in a world that is a far cry from the one we know. Men only live to age 25 and women to age 20. When life is just supposed to be beginning, for them it ends. Because of a genetic engineering mistake a virus has decimated the population and every person is basically a ticking time bomb, waiting to go off. Many of the elders in the population are dying off and their children are already gone. In order to keep them from dying out entirely young girls are kidnapped and sold in polygamous marriages with wealthy and influential men. When Rhine is kidnapped at age 16 she enters a world she can hardly believe exists. With two other sister wives, Rhine is given to man named Linden, whose father is desperate to find a cure before it's too late for his son. Will Rhine be able to find her twin brother and escape? Is there really anything to escape to?

Author Lauren DeStefano proves once again that readers are interested in what is becoming of our world. In her Dystopian YA debut,
Wither it's obvious that she has given a lot of time to researching the possibilities. Her world building skills are very well defined for a debut writer and I thought she did an excellent job of describing the conditions Rhine was living in before and after she was sold into polygamy. The opening paragraphs of the book are both harrowing and intense, giving the reader a view of a very desperate world, that has basically brought about it's own destruction. Though Rhine's world is an alternate reality from our own, it easy to see the parallels between the two if scientists are allowed to go unchecked and have free reign. It is interesting and scary!

The characters in
Wither are well developed and three dimensional. I got the impression that there was a little good in everyone and a little bad, which is most usually the truth. Perfect characters are just that characters, they aren't people that the reader can identify with or become involved in. DeStefano's characters however, have depth and personality. They have their own agendas, their own shortcomings and their own ideas about what it takes to survive.

Rhine is determined to have her freedom and I really liked that about her. She is taken from a place of suffering and thrown into a world where she has everything she ever dreamed, but she isn't free. She had guts and courage, yet there were still moments when she found herself wondering why she wanted to escape, what was out there that she wanted to be a part of? I sympathized with her feelings. I got the impression that at times she was very conflicted. Linden is a polygamist, a man who is having sex with the thirteen year old girl and yet he is simple and uncomplicated and loving to Rhine. Though Linden's character turned my stomach at times, I could see why Rhine couldn't help but have some kind of feelings for him.

Cecily on the other hand is a character that really bothered me. She made me uneasy from the beginning. She is a thirteen-year-old girl forced to marry a man twice her age and she is almost happy about it. It made me cringe when she talked about reading books to show her how to bring Linden greater pleasure. She was just a baby. Though there are no real sex scenes in the book, it is alluded to often from the dialogue of the sister wives. But, I will say that if a book or a character in general can make a reader feel that kind of emotion, it is well written and a great accomplishment for the author. Books are supposed to make you feel something and this one certainly does.

I also had a bit of trouble with the way the author chose to portray polygamy. It is not something I believe in, or that I would consider appropriate in most cases. However, I do believe that people have a right to their own religious beliefs and practices,
if they do not harm others. That is the key statement. What I think I took offense to a little bit was the fact that the author made is seem like all people who practice this lifestyle are the dregs of society, the worst possible kind of people. They are people who would hurt children and do unspeakable things. I realize this is a book and this is an alternative view of how things could be, but it still got under my skin a little bit and I'm a baptist... LOL!

Being the first book in a trilogy. The ending was satisfying but still left a lot of questions, setting up for the next book in the series.
Wither has a good pace and can be finished quickly. Especially if the reader really gets into the story and sits up all night unable to put it down to the end!

I realize there is a lot of buzz about this novel and there are a lot of people who love it. I recommend this one to readers who love dystopian novels. It's a great example of the genre and I think there will be many readers out there that will find it very interesting. There were many things I liked about it and some that were a bit of a stretch for me. This is a book that will make the reader a little bothered, but that's a good thing in this instance I think. This one wasn't my cup of tea by a long shot, but it was still extremely well written. I loved the characters even though the situations they found themselves in were very unexpected. I would offer a bit of caution with this one, it will definitely make you feel something, just maybe not what you think.

Wither is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag based on the exceptional writing. It may not have been my cup of tea but that doesn't mean it won't be yours!

Lauren DeStefano earned her BA in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut in 2007.
Wither is her first novel.


Unknown said...

I agree that it was beautifully written. It was definitely confrontational and was hard to imagine a lot, but I am looking forward to the next.

brandileigh2003 said...

I loved the characters so much- they were complex and well written.
Thanks for review.
Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Great review-I think my favorite part of Wither was the sister wives relationship with their different personalities and how they interacted with each other and Linden as they tried to survive in this brutal world.

I so wonder what is going to happen in the next book!