Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither
by Lauren DeStefano

ISBN-13: 9-781442-409057
Publication: March 2011 from Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb – males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape – to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bend on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

Wither boasts a unique storyline, memorable characters and a very creepy depiction of a dystopic future. All girls die at age twenty, and boys at twenty-five, from an unknown and incurable virus – the result of a previous generations genetic tinkering to live longer and healthier lives. Rhine, our main character, has been kidnapped by Gatherers and chosen as a bridge for wealthy Linden – along with two other girls. Rhine and her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily, are now permanent house guests of Linden and his father Vaughn. But Rhine is determined to escape and get back to her twin brother.

Overall, I enjoyed Wither. The world that Lauren DeStefano created is sinister and well developed. There was no big backstory section to how this awful future came to be – the details were woven throughout the main storyline when they were needed, which I love. I always enjoy dystopian books where I’m in suspense about why the world is the way it is and what has happened to make it that way. Rhine has a very distinct voice and personality which really allows the story to suck you in and keep you reading. She’s hardened and strong, but still vulnerable and unsure of herself sometimes. And although I enjoyed her character, she constantly made the decision to not tell Linden and her sister wives about where she was really from, or tell Linden about how the she and the others actually came to be at his house and his brides (by, you know, kidnapping). I don’t understand why she didn’t tell and it drove me nuts! All I can think of is that she thought it would somehow hurt her chances of escaping, or something.

There is a bit of a romance aspect to Wither, between Rhine and Gabriel. I found there romance to be a little…odd. Rhine has minimal contact with Gabriel, and in fact he’s completely missing from her life for at least a month or so. The novel takes place over quite a long period of time, about a year, so I can only think that there are scenes behind the curtain that we don’t see that form a relationship between Rhine and Gabriel. I actually really liked Linden. If Rhine had just told Linden what had happened and not been so intent on blaming him for everything, I think she would have felt a bit differently about him – there are some glimpses of this, in fact, in some really wonderful scenes.

Lauren DeStefano is a beautiful writer. There are scenes in the book which just pull the emotion out of you. I felt, at different times, breathless, terrified, sad, compassionate and comforted. The descriptions are vivid and I love the details present in Wither. I’m excited for the sequel, but I still wonder – how come the girls die earlier than the boys? How come it’s not equal or the other way around? So not fair.

It’s Dystopian February at Presenting Lenore!