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Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Hardcover $17.99 (368 pages, SIMON & SCHUSTER)
Ebook $9.99

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?

Author Site: www.laurendestefano.com

Thoroughly Compelling, Beautiful Dystopian Lit (5 stars)

They played god. Created a perfect generation free from disease and genetic maladies. But fate is not without a sense of humor and their children grow, only to wither in their youth.

With so little time to live, such short timelines to fill, America is in a state of surreal panic. Young adults must breed while they can lest the human race wink out like the dying star it is. The wealthy have turned to polygamistic "marriages" to ensure the future of the species. A man of means need only hire a Gatherer to round up potential brides and he can be the House Governor of his own little unwilling harem.

Rhine is just sixteen when she is stolen and sold to Linden Ashby to be one of his three new brides. Brides to replace his fair Rose who lays dying. In a mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens and orange groves, with her every material whim met what more could Rhine want? Like an exotic bird in a gilded cage she dreams only of freedom. But her impending death will be her only escape if she can't outwit her sinister father-in-law. With the aid of Gabriel, a servant she's drawn to, can Rhine escape the Chemical Garden?

Now this, dear readers, is how you write a dystopian novel. There are so many underlying and obvious themes in this novel I simply could not comment on them all. From the dichotomy of living in caged luxury for one's short days or in impoverished freedom to the controversial and fascinating idea of sister-wives this book demands thought from the reader. It is brutal, bittersweet and passionate. Romantic and terrifying. This is a dash Ayn Rand and a little bit Gothic romance.

Rhine (pronounced just like the river) is a compelling heroine. From her struggle to bide her time in the mansion to her growing relationships with her sister-wives it is simply not possible to care for her fate. The strength she possesses, the wisdom she shows and the determination she shows almost seemed beyond her years.

Joined by a rich cast of secondary characters from her very different sister-wives and the household's servants to the man she has been forced to marry and his creepy father, Rhine's tale unfolds with depth. Youngest of the sister-wives, Cecily is bratty but desperate to please. Jenna, the elder sister-wife, is cold and withdrawn. Linden loves his wives in his own way, while his father rules the entire household with an iron fist and a chilling underhandedness. Gabriel is tender and vulnerable in his own way. Not one of them left me without an emotional response be it fear, sorrow or warmth.

Though I felt it possible to pick at the world building a little bit Wither was able to fill in enough holes I was able to suspend disbelief. It is hardly impossible to imagine a world where man has finally played god one too many times. This vision of the future is terribly creepy, intensely sad and begs the reader to consider the cost of health, youth, freedom and love.

I absolutely insist that readers who enjoy young adult dystopian stories with romantic undertones give this one a try. If the lovely cover hadn't sold me before the blurb would have and DeStefano delivers in spades. This is one of the best books I have read this year and I am desperate for the next novel in this trilogy.

Other Reviews:
La Femme Readers
Chick Loves Lit
Nice Girls Read Books
Read Now Sleep Later

Notes: Received ARC via Amazon Vine.


Unknown said...

Great review Rhi!

I keep reading very positive reviews for this book! Might give it a shot =D

Rhianna said...

I've actually been hoping to see some negative reviews just so I'll know what others disliked. I noticed some folks on Amazon tagged it with "underage sex" and "rape" so I was surprised not to see more people harping on it.


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