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Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Author: Lauren DeStfano
Pages: 356
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Series or Standalone: 1st in trilogy
Genre: YA Dystopian
Reading Level: 16 yrs old+
Dominant Themes: Polygamy, Scientific experimentation, Death, Sex

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.

Rhine Ellery’s world is one of danger and caution, where the only thing that is certain is that when she turns 20, she will die. She lives alone with her brother in what is left of the great city of Manhattan, barely getting by. Then, she’s stolen away and sold off to be one of three wives to the rich Linden Ashby. At 16 years old, Rhine only has 4 years left to live and she’s expected to spend them doting over her husband in this sham of a marriage. But soon she finds herself falling for a servant, Gabriel, and he makes her time there more bearable, as well as her budding friendships with her two sister wives.

Wither is a gritty and eye-opening novel that is intense from start to finish, and the emotional upheaval never stops. It paints a surprisingly realistic picture of a dying society’s fight to stay alive. Things that are considered taboo in our world today are commonplace in Wither: kid-napping, human trafficking, polygamy, sex with vastly underage girls, those same vastly underage girls getting pregnant, experimentation on corpses… It goes on. Even I, an older teenager, found myself cringing at times. But don’t let that put you off from this remarkable novel!

Written in a lyrical combination of contemporary fiction and dazzling, almost poetic prose, Wither captured me from the first page. Lauren DeStefano was obviously looking to play with emotions with the way she wrote, and all I have to say is mission accomplished. Not only did I enjoy this novel beyond my own comprehension, I felt it. Rhine’s desperation, her sadness, her resolve, her love, her hatred, her fear, the feeling of entrapment, the feeling of freedom, the sense of sisterhood. Everything. I felt it. This, for me, is rare, and when a novel comes along that can manipulate my emotions in such a way… Well, it’s an instant favorite.

Normally, there is at least one or two characters in a novel that fall a flat and fail to come alive in my mind. But, in case you haven’t noticed, Wither isn’t necessarily a ‘normal’ novel. Each character shone in their own particular way. Rhine for hear braveness and resolve, even when her world is dwindling down to the four walls around her and she has virtually no way out. Linden for his shy, naïve, and adorably clueless manner. Gabriel for his sweet and caring personality, and a cute boyish handsomeness. Cecily for her youthful spunk, although at times she could get a little grating on the nerves. Jenna was Cecily’s foil, and therefore more mature and stoic. Vaughn… well, he was one of the more unsettling parts of the novel. Even though he didn’t make many appearances, each time he did, the creep-o-meter went berserk. But my favorite character of this novel was Linden, which will most likely be contrary to most other people’s opinions. Yes, in all technicality, he forcibly married Rhine, and yes, he’s not without blame for some of the terrible things that happen in this novel. And, yes, he obviously didn’t have consideration for some things. But, he is also very innocent, almost like a little boy. His father, Vaughn, is mostly the mastermind behind many of the things that the reader originally wants to pin on Linden.

The world of Wither frightened me in a deliciously terrifying way. With all the scientific experimentation that happens in today’s day and age, it’s no doubt possible that something similar to this could happen in our world. Scientists tried to create the perfect human race, and while they succeeded in making the "first generations" sturdier and longer-living, every generation of offspring thereafter had one deadly flaw: girls died at 20, boys at 25. Most of the world has been obliterated by this genetic virus that is seemingly incurable, and what's left of America is fragmented and dangerous to live in. Lauren DeStefano has definitely succeeded in creating a completely unique and scary new world that I would dread living in, but love to read about. 

The cover for Wither is really just the icing on top of the superbly made delicious cake. Not only is it gorgeous, but it captures the essence of the novel.

I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars.


  1. I loved this book too! I agree that each character had its own aliveness. Great review!

  2. Sounds really good, thanks for the review! (:

  3. Great review.. I really wanna read this one.. Before it was just because of the cover made me curious. But your review :) Really convinced me.. This one is getting on my wishlist :)

  4. Wither has been on my radar for awhile, so I seriously need to read it, pronto. Especially after this glowing review! :)

    I haven't read a YA dystopian novel with scientific experimentation- I'm really interested in getting into this twist.

    Great review!

  5. I adored this book, too. DeStefano's writing is just so lush and amazing and poignant. I could just go on and on. Lovely review! Hope your cold is feeling better :)


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