Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Dystopian YA
The Story: (from Simon & Schuster) 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?
My Review: This book took my breath away. It starts with our main character, Rhine, completely in the dark, having no idea where she is headed. What she does know is that whatever happens when she gets there means life of death. She was taken away from her brother and home and finds herself selected as one of three girls to be the new wife for a wealthy man named Linden. Despite Rhine's situation there is still somehow hope infused into the storyline. It's not easy at times and I often found myself getting comfortable in Rhine's new life, just as she was.
Everything is not what it seems when it comes to Rhine's new husband and even though I wanted to hate him, I found it extremely hard to do so. It should have been easy knowing that Rhine and her two sister wives were taken for the sole purpose of having children with him but it wasn't easy at all. It becomes clear that Linden really does care for Rhine and he's so incredibly clueless himself at times that I found myself pitying him instead of hating him.
Rhine comes to love her two sister wives but their backgrounds and hopes for the marriage they are in vary as much as their personalities. Rhine is obsessed with finding a way to escape, some way to reach out to her brother to let him know she's safe. The same cannot be said for her two new sister wives. It's horrifying to see the acceptance of some of the young characters in this book, but the acceptance is necessary to illustrate just how devastating life has become. Children are forced to grow up much before they would normally have to, growing up in orphanages with no parents and being raised by others not much older than themselves.
The premise of Wither is so shocking but yet so believable that I could almost see this truly being the future of our society. It's a tribute to the impeccable writing talents of DeStefano that separating our world from theirs is not an easy task. Her writing style is beautiful and harrowing, completely capable of pulling you inside a world where there should be no hope. A world where no one lives to see thirty and children are being born by children, only to watch them die.
DeStefano's debut is flawless. Wither is captivating and brilliant. I was swept away by the world that she created and am anxiously awaiting the sequel.