Early Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

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How did I get it: I asked for an ARC from Simon & Schuster a couple months ago.

Why did I get it: The cover intrigued me and the premise made me determined to read it as soon as possible.

How would I rate it: 5 out of 5 stars because I finally read a book that deserves them!

My Summary: In the not-too-distant future, genetic engineering and maniplation takes its toll and lifespans are drastically reduced. Males live for 25 years and females live for 20 before contracting a virus and dying. While trying to find a cure and in an effort to insure that other generations are produced, teenage girls are taken for orphanages or adbucted in order to made the brides and sister wives of various teenage boys.

While trying to make ends meet for herself and her twin brother Rowan, 16 year old Rhine ends up as one more victim and is kidnapped into a life of temporary pleasure and leisure. Given to a young man named Linden while developing feelings for Gabriel, one of the many orphan attendents in the mansion she’s kept in, Rhine can have everything she wants except the only thing she needs – her freedom.

My Review: I was a little worried about this one, truth be told, and I was a foolish fool for feeling that way. This book was, in a word, amazing.

I really was glad that while it was definitely a teen book, DeStefano didn’t shy away from any issues and instead gave her reader a very unpleasant and severely messed-up future to consider. Rhine’s struggles to remember herself and save herself was compelling, and while she had help along the way, she was quite a powerful, relatable protagonist. Insight into her background really added depth to her as well as the way Rhine shared about her dead parents and her twin brother. I also really liked that Rhine preferred to return home and at least die as her own person than die like a bird in a gilded cage surrounded by people living a lie especially when that meant defying the expectations of everyone around her including Gabriel even though he was her love interest.

Wither is clearly Rhine’s story since it is told from a first person point of view, this book is not very limited in its scope the way so many first person novels seem to be. Wither is also the story of Gabriel, Jenna and Cecily (Rhine’s two sister wives), Rose (Linden’s first wife), Linden, Linden’s dangerous father, and many assistants in the mansion as well as an entire future world collapsing in on itself.

There’s an equal parts tragic and suspenseful element to this book that was incredibly engrossing as it is often unclear who will live and who will die. And when characters pull through, the reader is left to wonder and worry over what will become of anyone even if they manage to live given that most characters had 2 to 6 years left.

I’m loathe to give too much more away so I’ll finish here by saying that while there’s a lot of books with similar ideas or themes coming out, I doubt most of them are going to be this dark and thought-provoking.

And even though every single book coming out lately or in the near future seems to be the first in a series, I am thrilled that Wither is only the first book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy. Sadly Wither doesn’t even come out until March 22, 2011 so I imagine I’ll be waiting forever for its sequel.


About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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