Saturday, May 7, 2011

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Young adult (dystopia)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Why I read it/how I found it: I kept on seeing it mentioned on twitter, so I read the description and knew right away I'd want to read it.

Description: By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking 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 kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. 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 is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Review: This book is mostly driven by characters, but I found it done in a very elegant and intriguing way. My favorite part was getting to know all of the characters and all of their different reactions to the life they've been put in. But, if you are one of those readers who can't stand characters whose personalities are extreme, then you will have to be on your guard on this one with one particular person. As a character, I found Linden to be very well-sculpted, but I could not like him and found it difficult to even sympathize with him because I think he's a weak and cowardly character. This isn't a bad thing, and it made me delve further into the book, but I know that some readers have to like characters to go on. On the other side of the triangle (oh yes, this is a triangular book) there's Gabriel, who I did like. While he's not as seen as some of the other characters, little actions of his made me adore him. Rhine's two sister wives, Cecily and Jenna (yeah, I pretty much felt weird reading a book with my name in it), were also really well-done. Although it seems impossible at first, it's hard not to eventually adore Cecily in a strange, little-sister-that's-bugging-me type of way. The entire situation is creepy (stuck in a house sharing a husband with two other girls? Yeah, creepy!) that it's hard to turn away to see how things will go. However, I found the ending anti-climatic--there wasn't enough struggle and frantically turning pages to see how it ends. Action overall is low in this book, in fact almost non-existent. And FYI, if this is something to concern you, even though Rhine is married to Linden, there's no sex between them, and ergo no details. As for the other brides, who do have sexual relations with Linden, it's mentioned in passing.
Recommendation: Read if you like character-driven stories.
Should I buy it: If you spend money on books like it's no thing, go ahead and get it now. If not--library or friend until the paperback version comes out. I'd get it in paperback for sure.
Other information: This is the first book in The Chemical Gardens trilogy, and it was announced on Wednesday that the second book is to titled Fever. The official fansite is here and Lauren DeStefano's website is here.


  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I had to come back and comment on it. I agree with everything you said. This one was definitely character/atmosphere driven, and even though the plot wasn't as twisty-turny as some others, I still could not put it down. I think what hooked me about WITHER was the situation as a whole. There wasn't a lot of action, but there was a ton of tension, which, if you ask me, is more important anyway. Great review!