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Review: Wither (Lauren DeStefano)

The Deets:
Audience: older YA
Pages: 358
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781442409057
Genre: dystopia, romance
Source: Library copy

Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)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?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

I picked Wither for my YA book club pick in September. Since I'm off on summer break, I thought I would get a head start on the reading before going back to work in a few weeks. I have heard many positive things about this series, but I really had no idea what to expect.

As the story begins, we know that the world as we know it has changed. A massive nuclear war has left all continents except North America decimated. Genetic modifications in the 21st century have caused horrific consequences for future generations. Now, girls die at the age of 20 and boys at 25. There is no antidote. In a desperate attempt to preserve life, some "Gatherers" have started collecting girls of child bearing age to auction off to the highest bidder. The lucky ones get married off to a wealthy benefactor. The not-so-lucky ones meet a much darker fate.

Enter Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily. They are each plucked from their daily lives at different ages to be married off to the rich Linden Ashby. His father, Housemaster Vaughn, is an evil snake set on discovering an antidote at any costs. These characters were interesting, but lacking in some areas. For instance, Jenna disappointed me. She spoke of hating Linden and Housemaster Vaughn for what they have done (and continue to do), but yet she hops between the sheets with Linden at any chance she gets. In one scene, it's pretty obvious she doesn't mind it either. Cecily is annoying. She's all about growing up too quickly and being a big shot, but she comes across as a whiny brat. I really couldn't handle her role in everything. Worst of all though, was Linden. He is his father's puppet and goes along with his ridiculous role in life without questioning anything. He (very) willingly marries three girls soon after his first wife's death. He has no problems with fulfilling the role of husband with girls as young as 13. That's so disgusting, considering he's 20! I just couldn't get over that.

I really hoped Rhine would be better, but she was only so-so. I liked that she kept to her original plans, but... It seems she had feelings for both Gabriel and Linden, but she never did much to interact with Gabriel. She always doubted herself and her feelings. For this type of book, there really needed to be a stronger female lead. I felt like a third row passenger while reading this book. I was not actively involved in the story, but there was just enough to keep me from zoning out completely.

I was impressed, however, with the writing. This was a debut book from a young writer that has obvious talent. I am exited to see how her writing develops and improves as this story continues to grow.

Do I think this is one of the greatest dystopians I've ever read? Not really. But I am glad I picked it for the September book club because I think the younger girls will enjoy it.


  1. I thought this was a pretty good ending to the series. I will say though that I agree about Rhine. Through out the series she was always second guessing herself! Here is my review if you want to check it out:
    Everyone talks about how Linden goes for the young girls. Yuck!



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Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Square Fish (August 21, 2007)
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