Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: March 22, 2011 (hardcover)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Source: ARC received from publisher
Overall: 5 Stars
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.
Lauren DeStefano's debut novel Wither is a stunner, one which utterly fascinated me from the very first page. Everything from the idea of men living only to the age of twenty-five while women lived until they're twenty because of the failures of medicine... to the idea of polygamous marriages in the hopes of re-populating the quickly withering away population is in itself so horrifying, yet just so compelling and enthralling to read!
I read the novel in one sitting, eagerly flipping the pages and lost in Rhine's story as she faced what could only be her worst nightmare, captured by the Gatherers and sold into a polygamous marriage with two other teenage girls, Cecily and Jenna, who would become her sister wives. While her new husband, Linden, doesn't turn out to be quite the villain we would all suspect him to be and her new home has more luxuries than she could have dreamed... it is still not the life she has chosen. Rhine would do anything to return home to be with her twin brother, Rowen, but as time passes and she becomes more accustomed to her new life, the chance of ever escaping seems to be dwindling... especially when the feared Housemaster Vaughn, Linden's father, suspects she's up to something...
Each character in the novel is very much unique, bringing their own back-stories to the novel in such an important way as the roles of the characters and the way their personalities evolved throughout were so central to this novel. Much of the events in Wither occur within the mansion that belongs to Linden and his father, so much of this novel is essentially character driven rather than filled with tons of action-packed moments. While it does mean that the pacing may be considered slow to some... it was world-building to me. You're brought up to pace with the events that have shaped the future in such drastic, awful ways that I was grateful to not be suddenly flooded with information.
Your heart will instantly reach out Rhine and her desperate plight. She's trapped in her new situation but instead of simply giving up like most girls certainly would, she just puts her game face on. She was strong and intelligent, realizing there would be no point in acting out as it would get her nowhere; her only chance of freedom would be to pretend grow closer to Linden to earn more privileges. I only considered the short time span it took her to become attached to Gabriel, a servant in the household, as her only slight weakness as it seemed rather quick after a few interactions. But then again, he was just as helpless as her to do anything, so it's not really hard to see how they could connect so well.
As for Rhine's sister wives, both of whom she becomes close companions with during the novel, they provided nice contrasting views of the marriage they've been forced into. The younger Cecily was naive and eager to be a good wife to Linden, whereas the older Jenna was hardened from everything she'd experienced but she's also resigned to her fate.
I could probably continue to gush about the amazingness that is Wither... from the perfection of its gorgeous cover to the beautiful, dark story that Lauren DeStefano seems to weave so effortlessly. But you know what? I think I'll take a step back now and let you discover all the wonders of this haunting tale for yourself. Wither will be officially in stores tomorrow and is most certainly not a dystopian novel to be missed! I'm already eagerly anticipating the second novel in The Chemical Garden trilogy!
Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me this review copy!