by Lauren DeStefano
The Back Cover Says: By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with just 20. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote, desperate orphans roam the streets, crime and poverty prevail, 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 new life of wealth and illusion. Her husband, Linden, is in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. But 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?
What I say: The voice, the characters, and the intimate internalness of this journey are the major draw of Wither. It’s simply beautiful, from the cover to the complex relationships. The voice, the turns of phrase, the play of language, the elegant lines with which DeStefano sketches the characters through Rhine’s narration. The stark dystopia of her world, the one outside her luxurious prison walls, and the ones inside.
There’s also a horrific sense of possibility in the premise. I’m an optimist, generally, but it’s easy to see us doing something horrible to ourselves in the name of progress. As Ian Malcom says in Jurassic Park, We’re so busy figuring out how we CAN do something that we don’t always think about whether we SHOULD.
That said, not everyone will like this book. Would say that it’s a love it or hate it book, except that I loved it, even with some world building problems that I stumbled over at first. DeStefano smoothed them over well enough well enough to satisfy, and really, I was enjoying the read too much to quibble.
In fact, teens will probably enjoy this book more the way she deals with things rather than how I would–which is a much more pragmatic (and adult) view on how quickly humans will adapt their thinking to preserve a species. But the theme here is that a crappy life lived in freedom is preferable to a sham life in a gilded cage. Everything about Wither carries through this theme beautifully, so I’m okay with how DeStefano choses to paint this picture.
This is definitely Rhine’s journey. This book does not deal with saving the world (exactly). It deals with Rhine’s problem, and leaves the rest to tackle in future books. Like Matched and Across the Universe, Wither ends at more of a save point than a finish.
Pick it up and read the first chapter. If it grabs you, you’ll love the rest of the book. If it doesn’t, you won’t. But do check it out. It definitely grabbed me, and I devoured the book.