Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

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Synopsis: “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?”(from Goodreads)

The Breakdown:

Wow, did I pick a slightly difficult first book to review…

Wither is definitely one of the oddest/creepiest YA books I’ve ever read (and I know I don’t have much blogging cred to go by but trust me when I say that I have read my fair share of YA =))but I still had a great time going through Rhine’s journey, and I would definitely recommend this to others, but not without a few very small reservations.

Initially once I got into Wither I didn’t think that I would like it.  I mean it’s the 21st century and this story is supposed to be set in a dystopian future where girls are being scouted as brides, and none of them are physically fighting back, and everyone else is ok with it?  I was getting the feeling of a 1920’s China fused with the movie Taken, if you haven’t seen it it’s about a girl who get’s kidnapped by slave traders and is in the process of being sold to creeps that want virgins, and all the while this is happening her Dad is kicking major ass to try and find her, but I digress.  The plot took me some getting used to, but I was eventually sucked right into Rhine’s eerie little world.

I think what really brought me into the story were the complexities of the relationships and the descriptions of different aspects of the world that DeStefano builds.  The relationships between the characters are so far from any that we would find in everyday life: sister-wives, young husband-wife that were pretty much forced to marry, servants and masters, daughters-in-law and a father-in-law (who kidnapped them), and twins, but DeStefano finds a way for us (or me at least) to believe in each of them even at it’s most twisted (pg. 206 if you have the hardback copy, lol, I thought that scene was messed up in so many ways).  Each character has their distinct voice and drive. I especially love Rhine’s voice here: (Spoiler alert!: skip down to next paragraph to shield your see globes) “I smile charmingly, blush like his teasing makes me feel like a happy little daughter-in-law.  I want him to get blown away.  I want him to stand alone in the kitchen while knives and pans spin around in the hurricane winds and plates smash at his feet.  And then I want for the roof to be ripped away, and for him to be pulled up, getting smaller and smaller until he’s nothing.”(pg. 154) Her cool chick factor went up about 10 points after I read that!

The descriptions of certain parts of this world were so beautiful.  I think I love sweets way too much to not share this example of the detail and eloquence DeStefano has throughout Wither: “The dessert table is set up like a cityscape.  There’s a bio-dome cake that’s already been cut into.   There’s a wobbly gelatin swimming pool with chocolate chip concrete, a chocolate fountain.  Frosting flowers have been swiped, mutilated, and it’s like Dorothy’s Oz after someone has bitten into it.”(pg. 216)  I know it was probably not her intent, but after I read that, I really had the urge to go to a big party and raid the desserts! But there are very vivid virtual aspects to this world that I really enjoyed as well, and I love the dash of Gatsby she adds into the novel.

After my initial shock, I really did enjoy this book and maybe you will too! And  I look forward to picking up Fever and Sever soon.  And just throwing this out there, if this trilogy ever makes it to the big screen, one of the songs on the soundtrack HAS to be Now by Paramore (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G133kjKy91U) Every time I hear this I think of Rhine’s journey “…there’s a time and a place to die, but this ain’t it…”

Muse with me: What did you think of my very first review?!?! If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought! Agree? Disagree?