Release Date: March 22 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being 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 bent 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 Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
I have written this review so many times because I've needed to reign myself in due to writing so much or giving away too much of the plot. There is so much I want to talk about and applaud Lauren on!
I was captivated from the very first page. Lauren DeStefano's writing is simply put, beautifully deceptive. She writes with such lyrical prose yet the ideas and actions behind her words are deeply disturbing. In the world 16 year old Rhine lives in every female die at the age of 20, males at 25. Thanks to scientific advances, a perfect generation free of illness was born. But their children and grand-children suffered the fate of a guaranteed early grave. While many have been working a cure, there is none yet, the virus always takes hold and always wins out. I recently turned 20, so in Wither I'd be dead or drawing my last breath already. It's scary to think about.
Rhine is a great character. She has been kidnapped from the only person left in her life - her twin brother, no less - basically sent to a slaughterhouse where only the best three are chosen for the honour of marriage and the rest disposed of. But as so many would do in that situation, she doesn't kick and scream or plead for escape, she doesn't fruitlessly try to run away the minute she's there. No, she is strong, brave, determined and above all else - smart. The minute she's aware of her surroundings, she's already formulating her way of escape, how she will behave in order to win her new husbands favour. Winning his favour may result in him taking her outside the mansion - freedom. Freedom means a chance to escape.
The characters in Wither are what made this book so extraordinary. Linden, Rhine's new husband will mess with your emotions. The more you learn about him, you see is actually a nice guy. His actions scream wrong wrong wrong - disturbingly wrong, yet he is so genuine in his emotions and affections. He is vulnerable, naive, he does not know any better. You grow to pity him and maybe even like him in a way, but what he's played a part in, particularly with the youngest of the sister-wives, Cecily... man, it messes with your head
Each character has a story to their name that adds depth to their persona. Cecily in particular, I had to remind myself often that she is only 13 years old because there were times when her demanding, pushy attitude and horribly joyous affection for her new life peeved me off, but then you remind yourself of her age, her naivity and her circumstances prior to coming and it makes sense. But again, the readers poor emotions are pulled taunt and twisted into a complex mess of love, hate, disgust, humour, affection and shock - Lauren DeStefano is the master at character development.
I enjoyed reading the bond that developed between the sister-wives. The relationship between Rhine and Cecily was different to Rhine and Jenna (the oldest of the wives). Rhine was more closer to Jenna, who had a better understanding of the situation they were in. She was a true friend, a true sister and I quite liked her.
Another character I liked was Gabriel. A tentative relationship blossomed between this servant boy and the prisoner wife, Rhine. I loved the subtle affection (June Beans!) and the sweet, honest way it developed. It was nice to see something so honest and real, yet even that gets marred by the the world they're in and must be kept hidden.
The dystopian world Lauren has brought to life is horrifying. It's not loud - it doesn't need flashy action sequences, rebellions, and big adventures that make so many dystopian novels shine. She crafts Wither in a quiet way. It's a thought-provoking novel that will leave an imprint in your mind for days, even weeks after finishing. I'm still thinking about it. It could survive as a stand-alone novel, but I'm pleased to know we have two more coming. There are things I'm interested in seeing in the sequel and characters and relationships I want to explore more.
I cannot say enough about the skill Lauren has weaved throughout Wither. Yet another oustanding YA novel to add to your shelves! 2011 is rockin' the debut books.