Lauren DeStefano Wither
368 pp. Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Shuster) 2011 ISN: 978-1-4424-0905-7
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Full Disclosure: Unsolicited ARC from publisher
Summary (From the Goodreads): 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.
This is a book that despite a few things that bothered me, kept me reading and intrigued. I enjoyed the dynamics of the sister wives Rhine, Cecily and Jenna. Rhine is a strong character that breaks the mold of the damsel in distress that continues to reappear in many YA novels. Don’t get me wrong, she’s certainly in distress. I mean, she’s been kidnapped and forced to marry a man she doesn’t know or want to know. But she isn’t whining away and refusing to take action. Instead, Rhine schemes to escape from her husband Linden and his father, the creepy and cruel Housemaster Vaughn. She also refuses to consumate her relationship with Linden. Overall, Rhine is a character that’s easy to like and read.
My favorite aspect of the book was the relationship between Rhine, Cecily and Jenna. We don’t really get to see how Cecily and Jenna are on their own or when they’re with Linden, so in order to know them we have to rely on their interactions with Rhine. Cecily is the youngest of the trio, barely a teenager. Honestly, this really disturbed me–especially when she becomes pregnant. I’m assuming Lauren wanted this reaction from the reader because it really portrays how desperate everyone’s life has become. Cecily is also incredibly demanding and bratty, but this comes with her immaturity and inexperience. Her behavior, while tiring to read at times, did add some humor and complexity to the story. Jenna is detached from those around her because of her history. Despite this, she is who Rhine becomes closest too. She’s the oldest and closest to dying, so she’ll risk more in order to help Rhine uncover some secrets and try to escape.
One of the things I didn’t like is how much was left unresolved. I understand that this is the first in a series, but it felt like I was reading a really long prologue. Rhine is determined to find and reconnect with her brother, but we never receive any kind of hint or clue or anything as to if that will even happen or how he is. Housemaster Vaughn is described as being cruel and sinister. Rhine discovers some scary, troubling things in the basement involving Vaughn which I know plays a bigger role in the overall story. The problem I have is that nothing is developed, it’s only alluded to in order to build suspense. And it worked, because I kept predicting how it might affect the story. I was disappointed when I didn’t learn anything new by the end of the book.
As reviews for Wither have popped up, I’ve seen many readers comparing this to The Handmaid’s Tale. I haven’t read this book, but since hearing about it and looking it up, I’d like to read it and make some comparisons. I’m adding this ARC to my classroom library tomorrow and plan on buying a finished copy when it releases because I predict it will be popular with my girls. I had a few hang-ups, but overall I really enjoyed reading Wither. And I love the cover! I found myself flipping back to it while reading because seemingly small details on the cover held more significance the more I read. I enjoy Lauren DeStefano’s writing and I look forward to book two.