Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Pages: 358
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Dystopian
Source: Library

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.

My Review:
I don’t know why I put off reading this book for so long! I think it was because there was so much hype, and I tend to avoid anything that seems too popular. Weird I know...especially because it keeps me from reading wonderful books. Wither was a GREAT read. It’s set in the vaguely near future, in Manhattan and then Florida. It is a Dystopian novel, and very similar to a lot of novels being published right now. There’s a definite somber and devastating mood…and who wouldn’t be devastated if they all die by 20? They wouldn’t even be old enough to legally drink yet! There’s a desolate and helpless air that grabs hold of you and refuses to let you go, but makes you want to learn more about this world. How did it get this way? What kind of government is there? Who can save the human race? It’s similar to a lot of other genre-type books, but what sets it apart is very well-rounded out characters, flowing and easy dialogue, and a world that is positively terrifying simply because you could see something similar happening in the near future.

The writing style was original and very refreshing. I enjoyed that it wasn’t this long, angst-filled, flash-back ridden piece of suffering that some Dystopian novels end up coming across as. Instead, DeStefano kind of sneaks the details about this new post-apocalyptic world in with the ever moving plot and story. At the end of the book you’ve gained this knowledge about the world, but at the same time it wasn’t force-fed to you. There is not boring descriptions or long-dragging histories. Everything is detail orientated and relevant to the plot. Though I wish that the plot would have had a little more action involved. The opening scene is full of so much death, terror, danger, and action, then there is almost nothing actually going on other than the brides learning to live together in Linden’s house. I kind of found myself getting bored and longing for something, anything to happen to drive the plot forward.

One of the most interesting aspects for me was the relationship dynamics between the sister-wives. I’m always very interested in the concept of polygamy. It’s just so…bizarre…I can’t even begin to imagine having to share my man with anyone, let alone three other women. Even if you were technically the “first” wife, you would still have to sit back and watch as he called her the same pet names, touched her the same way he does you…ugh…I couldn’t stand it. However, the idea is very logical for the world that Lauren creates in Wither. People have basically reverted to the lifespan of dogs and cats, yet don’t produce litters, so they’ve got to continue the species somehow. I loved to see how Jenna, Rhine and Cecily interacted. I feel like if I was forced to marry someone against my will, I would find comfort with the other wives like Rhine did, but once I found out about Linden’s lack of involvement in the marriage, I would probably develop a soft spot and become insanely jealous over my sister-wives. Particularly someone like Cecily. One, she’s a red-head and I feel like I have to hate on all red-head girls because ALL guys think they are totally hot. Two, Cecily is freaking THIRTEEN. I would be so creeped out to be intimate with someone who is also intimate with a freaking toddler…Jenna would make me uncomfortable too, due to her history as a lady of the night. I feel like I would be a big bundle of insecurity in the presence of these dynamic women…regardless, they were the most interesting characters. Both Jenna and Cecily had such life, such vivid personalities, that they really brought something extra to the book. Even though there were two potential love interests, I thought the most interesting relationships were between the wives themselves, not Rhine and Linden vs. Rhine and Gabriel.

Speaking of the two lover-boys, I’m not quite sure what to think. It’s not my usual problem of being sick of love triangles. I honestly can believe this one and both characters have their flaws and their strengths so I can see why Rhine is torn up between the two. I also understand why Rhine is so upset with Linden at first. She believes that he is responsible for pulling her from the home she loves, and for the deaths of the girls who weren’t chosen to be his brides. He’s her captor. I get that. What I don’t understand is why she continuously hates on him and tries to run away. He seems like such a sweetie pie, all torn up after the death of his childhood-sweetheart, and once Rhine finds out that he had no idea that she was stolen away from her brother, or that Jenna’s sisters were killed, or anything about the cruel reality that they live in, you would think that she would have some sympathy for him. I know I would. He had me on his side the second he started crying on Rhine’s shoulder over how much Rose had meant to him. I also like Gabriel though. He seems down to earth and much smarter than Linden. The difficulty with both characters is that you don’t really get to see their inside feelings and thoughts. Though Rhine says things like “ Gabriel and I talked for hours.” You don’t get to see the conversation, to experience it, or grow to love Gabriel because of what he’s said. You like him because Rhine seems to like him, but you just don’t get the swoon-worthy connection that you’re looking for in a good book boyfriend. And with Linden, you really don’t know what to do with him. He isn’t malicious, but he is so completely oblivious to the lives that are going on around his own. I would have liked to see Rhine actually tell him about her past and then seen how he reacted to it. Depending on his reaction, I could grow to hate or love him…right now both he and Gabriel are too fuzzy to actually say whether or not I like them. Good thing book two, Fever, is coming out soon so maybe I’ll get the chance to learn more about them.

The one thing that bugged me a lot about this book was how passive everyone is. I feel like if everyone did die at 20 or 25, there would be so much more urgency to live, to experience life, and to save the human race. The motivated ones would stop at nothing to find a cure for themselves, and those who didn’t care that they would die would surely want to fill the small amount of time they had left in pleasure, comfort, and debauchery. I’m surprised the streets weren’t home to wild parties and orgies half the time. Like…Rhine and her brother just patiently go to work every day, then go home and sleep. They aren’t doing anything with the time they have. I just didn’t understand why they wouldn’t try to better their situation or to you know…live. I know that if I thought I was dying in 2 years I would be chucking my schoolbooks out the window, partying it up with some European hotties, go skydiving…something. There wasn’t enough of a sense of urgency or panic about the fall of the human race and it really bugged me. Also, I didn’t understand why girls would be in such high demand, to the point that they would be kidnapped by the “Gatherers”. Apparently there are orphans and brothels all over the place. Wouldn’t those orphans and prostitutes want to go be brides to some rich gentlemen? Why would the gatherers have to steal girls from their bed?…and on a side note, just who were these Gatherers anyways? If you only lived to 25, why in the world would you spend those precious years kidnapping girls for other 20-25 yr olds? It felt like a few ideas weren’t very well thought out, and those little inconsistencies cut into my enjoyment of the overall story. I still enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t amazingly epic.
   I give Wither 4 Keys. The concept is very cool and eerie, though I will say, it didn’t WOW me. There was never a moment in the book when my heart was beating out of my chest in fear, or I was swooning over one of the boys, or even all that curious about the world outside of the house. It’s like Vaughn gassed me up with some of his chemicals and I was perfectly content to just bumble along reading. There wasn’t very much substance to the world or meaning in any of the character’s lives so I ended up kind of feeling a little put out. It’s odd, because I really enjoyed it, but I can’t justify giving it a 5 Key rating. I will be happy to see where this series goes, but I’m not sure if I’m going to pre-order Fever or anything. Probably not.


  1. Hahah, I hadn't even thought of the drinking age thing! I wonder if they'd change it in a situation like this? I guess it didn't cross my mind because the drinking age in Canada is 18/19 so I always forget about other places lol.

    I really thought this was an interesting book as well. Some parts of it were really creepy, and I'm curious to hear how it goes. I've heard people say that Fever is a great sequel, so hopefully it does pick up in some of the action areas, like you pointed out.

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

  2. I thought this book was great, but for some reason, I didn't like the main character...I don't know why.

    Great Review!

  3. I haven't read this one yet. Thanks for the great review, it does sound like a book I will enjoy reading.

  4. I have been wanting to read this one for a while. I am a sucker for dystopians and always have been. I'm really glad there seem to be a lot of them now.

  5. I haven't read this one either but I have to before Fever comes out so I will at the start of next month. The reviews seems to be pretty love or hate though so I'm a bit wary. You make me really look forward to it though!

    Xpresso Reads

  6. Great review! I liked this book and agree with your comments that given the way the world is, there isn't much urgency. Maybe the book takes place after people have tried to rebel and failed? I too enjoyed reading about the interactions and relationships between the sister wives. I am looking forward to Fever to see where the story goes!

  7. I still haven't read this book myself. I don't know why I haven't. I have actually read the first few chapters, but it just creeped me out a little. I might read it one day, because of your fabulous review. But for now, there are so many books that I have yet to read that I am going crazy for. I think I will wait a little longer. Thanks for the review!

  8. I've had a really hard time walking past this one in the book store lately. The concept sounds so intriguing! Thanks for your thorough, well thought out review! I feel like I have a better idea of what I'd be getting into when I read it. The sister-wives sound like fascinating characters, but I agree with you, I'd definitely feel jealous and insecure. Then again, if your society doesn't know anything else? Hm. Anyhow, I'm really curious to meet Linden and Gabriel now and see how I like them and whether I agree with your opinions ;)