Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Release date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Ebook available from: Barnes & Noble | Amazon
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 she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

Wither is a hard book to write a review for. I was engrossed, even though there was not a whole ton of action. Emotionally, I was exhausted at the book's end, but not for Rhine. I hated reading about such a future, and it'd be very hard to not feel for the characters, especially Cecily. I didn't like realizing no one was outraged at all that happened to her. At thirteen, she should've been hanging out with friends, getting her first real boyfriend, and experimenting with makeup. Not a wife, not at all. And I know it's fiction, but the idea that anyone--anyone at all--could envision this as a future hurt.

All of this being said, as a whole I really enjoyed reading Wither. It's simply a hard book to recommend. As most have said before me, the atmosphere is ridiculous. The world of Rhine feels real through the atmosphere and allows for the holes in the worldbuilding. The mansion feels sinister and comfortable at the same time. Even the characters have multiple faces. It all works together to create a very specific and haunting kind of vibe, one that I hope continues throughout the second book as well.

The characters were definitely also a highlight. I thought they all had a lot of depth, and while their motives and actions were often not close to what my own might have been, I could see why they did what they did and couldn't blame them for it. They had backgrounds or motives to support them. I almost feel silly for pointing this out, but a lot of times I can't see motivation for characters, other than to drive plot, and that gets frustrating! So yay! Gabriel was easily the most likable character, though we actually see very little of him. Please give me more!!!

Because the atmosphere was palpable and the characters realistic, Wither was an emotional story. We spend a lot of time listening to Rhine's thoughts and feelings. We see how deeply she comes to care for her sister wives, even when she's angry at them. We see her feelings for Gabriel grow through his kindness and gentleness. We see her confusion as she comes to feel sympathy--and maybe something more?--for Linden. We really feel all of her emotions, and I LOVED this. I am that much more invested in a book if I can feel a protagonist's emotions, and it really kept me reading.

Wither is a huge testament to Lauren DeStefano's writing ability. She takes a very hard subject and, at least in my opinion, doesn't belittle the seriousness. Rather, she shows us the pain of the situation, and makes us feel for her characters. There was little action, and the climax came and went very quickly, but Wither was an excellent read to me.
I would not recommend Wither to younger readers of young adult. The subject matter is very adult and not presented in the most delicate way (a way that works for the story, but isn't quite right for someone not in high school at least--in my opinion.)
Risk a paper cut? I really don't know how comfortable I am recommending Wither, but if you find your tastes coincide with mine, and can stomach some upsetting things, I'd say it's a rather illuminating read. If that helps??

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