Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: Wither - Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, futuristic, romance
Published on March 22, 2011
Published by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 358
Read From: 12.22.12 - 12.26.12

What if you knew exactly when you would die? Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking 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 she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes. Though it has a “character impersonator” on the front, we’re given a side profile, and I do love how the cover uses the little circles to indicate that the girl is supposed to be the bird, and her wedding band is the cage the bird is contained in. I love the colors and the title font as well.

Characters: While not the biggest fan of Rhine’s name, she is for the most part an okay protagonist. She’s practical and doesn’t waste a whole lot of time on tears. She has more loyalty to her sister wives than I probably would, and for all of Cecily’s jerkiness, Rhine tries to help her when she can. Jenna was my favorite, though. She just wanted to be left alone, behaves maturely, and helps Rhine with her escape plan with extreme risk to her own personal safety. The only thing that kept Jenna from being better protagonist material than Rhine was the fact that Jenna was completely resigned to her fate. And Cecily was the world’s brattiest, most annoying little pampered princess to grace the pages of literature (in recent years, that is). Even though Rhine kept insisting that the poor child was just innocent; that she hadn’t a clue about what was really going on, I never managed to like Cecily, not even in the very end. The Author tries to make Linden likable, but I struggled with my attachment. He was just so completely clueless. But she succeeded with making Vaugn creepy.

The Romance: The love triangle between Linden, Rhine, and Gabriel is, in all honesty, a little weird. I liked Gabriel well enough, and I hope Rhine ends up with him, but if only because Linden is too messed up. He may be an all right guy, but he’s completely clueless, and I’m sorry, but any guy who would sleep with a thirteen-year-old girl is just creepy! I don’t care if he’s been told it’s okay to do - it is still creepy! That fact alone obliterated my good opinion of Linden, and I just really don’t understand how Rhine could even entertain the notion that she might like a guy who claims to love her, but is perfectly all right with sleeping with two other girls.

Plot: I did actually really like the premise of the story: people’s lifespans being shortened considerably by a genetic defect. The storyline of Wither itself kind of lagged. Here we have a protagonist whose very first instinct is to escape her prison, at all costs. But Rhine does a whole lot more talking a lot less planning. She has a very, Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow kind of attitude when it comes to escaping. She goes on and on about how much she hates it there, and she has this grand plan of becoming first wife and gaining Linden’s trust so she can have more access and privileges, and run away. But it is in fact the other wives - Jenna especially - who get her what she needs in order to run away. Rhine doesn’t do much for herself but struggle with her weirdly growing affection for Linden and sigh over the loss of her twin brother.

Believability: The girls Linden didn’t choose for wives being gunned down in the back of a truck was a very grim and realistic touch, though I do have to wonder about one thing: if the society is trying to keep up human population by making girls produce as many kids as possible, why would they gun a bunch of them down? It seems a little counterproductive. I also failed to see the dystopian aspect of the story. Sure, science tried to make a genetically perfect generation - no illness, no deformities - but I didn’t get the sense that it was because they were trying to create a perfect world. They were just trying to eradicate disease, which isn’t the same thing as creating a utopia.

Writing Style: Present-tense, unsurprisingly. It was okay for this particular story, though for some reason I didn’t think it worked as well as it has for some.

Content: The girls have a lot of conversations about consummating their marriage with Linden, and the girls often ask each other what it was like to “do it” with Linden. While no details are ever offered about what’s going on behind the door, I did get very tired of it always coming up in conversation. I don’t need to know every time Linden visits one of his wives, thank you.

Conclusion: [Spoiler]Rhine’s escape from the estate is pretty uneventful, and almost too easy. I found it a bit disappointing.[End spoiler] Overall, I found Wither mildly entertaining. The concept with the genetic disorder was intriguing, and Rhine was an acceptable protagonist. The writing style was nothing spectacular, but it wasn’t bad, either.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen and up. Even though I do not classify this as a dystopian, fans of dystopian romances will enjoy this one.

Others in The Chemical Garden Trilogy:

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