Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The Chemical Garden #1

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Publication Date: March 22, 2011

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: Dystopian



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?

My Thoughts: This is one of those books that I wasn't sure about until I picked it up and opened up to the first page.  After that, I was hooked.  This is one I did not put down and stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading and thinking: "Just one more chapter!".

The summary above does very well in summarizing, basically, the whole book.  Rhine is kidnapped off of the streets on her way home from work, shoved into the back of a dark van and driven across the country to be sold as one of three brides for Linden.  Despite Linden being horribly naive and not as bad as she would have thought, Rhine's sole thought is of escape and living the last four years of life she has left her own way.

It was weird to imagine a world full of only young people.  There are the much older first generation people who age normally, but other than that every man was under twenty-five and ever woman under twenty.  There are orphans running rampant around and most people who are working are really young.  There were so many things that I found abhorrent in this novel and gave me such a shock (for instance, a thirteen year old girl being married off and getting pregnant and not many thought twice about it).  When I sat down and absorbed the world it made sense that things like that would be routine in a world where the young died young.  It really made the world seem real and painted a picture of what it had become.  But it was nevertheless disturbing.

Rhine Ellery was sold into a polygamous marriage after being kidnapped.  It was one of the many things that could happen in the world she lives in but never one she considered.  So, at the ripe age of sixteen she was married with two sister wives - one older and one younger.  Not to mention the existing first wife, Rose, who at the age of twenty was succumbing to the disease they would all eventually fall prey to.  Rhine's other sister wives all seem to accept their fate one way or another. Rhine, on the other hand, does everything within her power to make sure that she escapes - even if that means pretending to be in love with her husband and calling him "sweetheart".

Gabriel is the man who serves the sister wives their food and tends to their needs.  He is the only servant other than the wives' own personal servant permitted on their floor (which has no stairs and an elevator that can only be accessed with a key card).  He and Rhine form a companionship that could certainly turn into something else - if they weren't constantly worried about someone walking in on them or finding them out.  Gabriel is a sweet guy who barely remembers life outside of the confines of the mansion in which he serves.

Linden, the husband of Rhine and her sister wives, is so sweet and naive.  He and Rhine do get along and under any other circumstances they could have been at least sincere friends, I believe.  Linden is horribly in the dark about how his new wives have been brought to him and even what happens in his own home.  Everything in Linden's home is overseen and ruled by his cold, calculating and uncaring father - Vaughn.  Vaughn is a scientist who is laboring for a cure to the disease that is killing off humanity by any means possible.

Overall, I really, really liked this book.  Some of the things that happened or were mentioned through me off guard and left me reeling and unbelieving but the fact that I had a reaction so intense really speaks for the writing and the author of this series.  I honestly can't wait to start the next one.


  1. I'm glad you liked this one! I remember loving it when it first came out, too. :) I just finished the last one in the series the other day!

  2. This was a sad/disturbing book. But I was like you when I read it and did the whole 'just one more chapter!' thing. It's really good at placing you in their messed up world. Hope you like the next one, too. I really did and can't wait to get my hands on the last one.


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