Monday, March 28, 2011

Wither: By Lauren DeStefano



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?


Wither is an interesting combination of a dystopian future novel, where each generation dies at a young age (girls at 20, boys at 25), and a forlorn love story. Of course when I say forlorn love story do not get the impression this is a sappy romance novel where after one viewing each person of the couple is completely and madly in love, but are forced to live desolate and meaningless lives until they are reunited. Instead think of it as a dystopian future storyline, in which, like most YA novels, the author, DeStefano, uses the love plot point to move the story along. Besides this, Destefano spends the majority of the book focusing on freedom, happiness, and the shades between wrong and right that color much of the world.

The story starts off with the protagonist Rhine already captured and being sold into relative slavery, as a bride to a wealthy doctors son. From this point on I couldn’t put the book down. Destefano does a fantastic job creating a well written fast paced novel that captivated me, and I’m sure would engage many other readers as well.

Of course while I was impressed with the pace and level of writing, what I found most impressive about Wither were the characters. DeStefano does a fantastic job of walking the line between good and bad, love and hate, and growth and destruction. DeStefano does this by not only depicting characters in a pure victim’s sense, but by painting the moral ambiguities in each of their actions. Yes it is wrong for Vaughn (the doctor who buys Rhine) to buy these girls and place them in slavery (don’t worry you find this out in the beginning, this isn’t a spoiler), but at the same time he is trying to save the human race from extinction. This coupled with different perspectives on the situations the characters are in, (between Cecily (a positively annoying yet important character because of her perspective), Jenna, and Linden (in my opinion a truly fascinating and underrated character)), creates a colorful and intriguing picture that helps shape the book into the spellbinding novel that it is.

All in all while I don’t know exactly how DeStefano plans to make this into a trilogy, I very much enjoyed Wither. And because of it’s moral ambiguity, characters, and engaging writing I look forward to later books in the series.


9 out of 10


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Published: March 22, 2011

Price: $17.99

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