Sunday, February 5, 2012

{Review} Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: March 22, 2011

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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?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

One of my goals for 2012 is to expand my reading range. With the exception of the Hunger Games, I haven't read any dystopian and honestly, it's a bit depressing to me. I've said it many times before...I read to escape reality and well, dystopian storylines don't always provide the most luxuriousness of I usually leave these for my last choices.

The first thing I noticed when I began Wither was Ms. DeStefano's prose. Her descriptions evoke images and feelings that bubble to the surface...both beautiful and frightening. Written in first person, from Rhine's point of view, the emotions seeped into my subconscious. Her fear, longing, and kindness made her stand out among her sister-wives. The one thing I didn't ever get from Rhine was her supposed hatred of Linden or his father. I know she learned to like Linden but Housemaster Vaughn remained a royal pain in the butt throughout the book and though Rhine feared him...she didn't seem to be completely disgusted by him. And I thought she should have been completely repulsed by him.

Rhine is kidnapped and chosen to be one of three new wives to Governor Linden. When girls die at the age of 20 and boys die at 25...getting married and having children young is the only way to continue the human race. Rhine is 16, Cecily 14, and Jenna 18 at the age of the gathering. Rhine quickly becomes friends with Linden's "real" wife, Rose...who's on her death bead. Rose sees something special in her and knows Rhine will become Linden's favorite once she passes.

Rhine does become the "first wife"--a term describing the wife that accompanies her husband to social events and gatherings. Jenna has no desire to become this wife and Cecily quickly becomes pregnant and prefers to be domestic. Linden treats Rhine with the utmost respect and never forces himself on her. He truly loves her...but that's not enough for Rhine. She wants to get back to her twin brother and return to her old life. Her plans are known throughout the house and place others in danger.

If she escapes...others will pay. I liked Wither but several things bothered me about the book.

1) The content is not meant for young readers...I would venture to say this is much more of an adult read at best. The sexual occurrences are not vivid and detailed, but the circumstances in which they revolve around are a bit worrisome. I would venture to say those younger than 17 or 18 should probably discuss this book with their parents.

2) Bigamy bothers me...especially when it involves an adult male (20) and young girls (14 & 16 plus another who's 18). This is a very taboo subject that affects teenage girls of this day and age, in a completely different manner. Statutory rape charges are filed all too often and Wither will be read by young girls. Making this type of relationship okay just doesn't seem right. My opinion only!

 3) There is a whole chapter about breast milk and wet nurses and so forth. There were many descriptions of breast milk leaking through Cecily's shirt when she hears Bowen cry and I understand that this was meant to show the reader that Cecily missed being allowed to feed Bowen...I'm just not sure how many teenagers will get the analogy.

I've heard great things about Fever and will definitely be picking it up. If you chose to read Wither, be prepared for adult content.


  1. Hey! Sorry it took me a bit too long to check the review, life's been hectic. I'm superglad to read your thoughts on this one, though. I agree with you on all your ew-y points. Specially breast milk. I don't really need details about that.

    I've been thinking about the 20-14 relationship. It's funny, because I accept that more or less easily in medieval-like stories. Back then, it was natural to get married that soon, since reaching the 40 year old mark was a miracle and all that. And you could get an older guy for a number of reasons. It's how it was, and I don't mind to know that, or to see fantasy worlds with heavy medieval undertones doing the same thing.

    It changes completely if this is happening now, or anywhere in the future, for some reason. I get this visceral reaction about "heck, no. Not back to that". I guess a marvelous instance of worldbuilding could have made me believe in the whole medieval approach to it, but, if you mix it up with poligamy... Institutionally accepted, I mean. We all know there are... instances. Then, it's a huge no-no.

    I don't think I'll be reading this, and I thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts on it! Great review ;)

  2. Hey Ron...glad to see your comment. Yeah the 20-14 age thing did happen in the past, and as you stated, for very valid reasons and really, in Wither, that is also the case but I just couldn't see past it. Especially when the 14 year old is the one who get's pregnant.

    I really had to laugh at myself on this one because very seldom am I this closed-minded. It's ridiculous. I suppose we all have our lines though..LOL.



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