Book Review: Wither – Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
ISBN: 9781442409057
Pages: 368
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Genre: Dystopian, Teen/YA
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Rhine Ellery is just sixteen when she is taken against her will and forced to become one of three wives to a wealthy (and somewhat kind) man, Linden.  In Rhine’s world, all the continents besides the United States have been destroyed by nuclear war and are uninhabitable.  What’s more, as a result of too much genetic testing and manipulation, people now produce offspring that live shortened lifespans – men only live until the age of 25 and women, like Rhine, until 20.  Rhine refuses to waste her last few years in a forced marriage and is determined to escape and return to her brother.

Review:

In YA, it seems like there is constant buzz when it comes to dystopian titles.  Just as the hottest titles are being released, the community will sets its sights on an upcoming book, and attention will shift to focus on that book.  Right now, that book is Wither by Lauren DeStefano, and since I’ve been enjoying the dystopian novels I’ve read lately, I was looking forward to reading it.

Wither has an interesting premise.  With such shortened lifespans, people are required to cram as much life into the little time they have.  There is no real mystery about when they’ll die.  DeStefano’s worldbuilding is good in Wither, but it left me wanting a little because there is not a lot of information about Rhine’s world.  Because Rhine doesn’t know the truth of what is happening, the reader doesn’t either.  Since Wither is the first book in a trilogy, presumably we will learn more about where Rhine comes from, the war, and the genetic testing in future novels.

I really appreciated the moral dilemma Rhine suffers as the novel progresses.  When she is kidnapped, all Rhine can think of is getting back to her twin brother.  Even when she discovers she is very far away from home and escape seems impossible, that’s all she can think about.  It’s what drives her, the thought of reuniting with her twin.  However, as she becomes used to life in luxury and gets to know Linden and her sister wives, sometimes she forgets her anger.  There’s nothing wrong with a girl of sixteen wanting to live in comfort and forget about the hardships of life for awhile, yet Rhine hates herself for it.  It’s a really interesting dilemma and DeStefano writes it well.

There was a sense of foreboding hanging over the entire novel, and I’m not sure it developed satisfyingly.  Linden’s father is a mysterious and forbidding character (he’s of the generation before the genetic manipulation, so he will outlive his son), and it’s clear that there is something twisted about him.  As the book progresses and the reader learns more, it’s clear there is something going on beneath the surface.  I’m not sure if the full explanation was what was given in the novel, but I felt like there was more going on there, and as a result, was disappointed with the outcome.

Rhine was certainly an interesting character, and I look forward to visiting with her again in the second and third novels of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.  DeStefano has written a haunting dystopian novel, and though I wish I had learned more about the setting, it was an intriguing read. 

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Comments

  1. Uh-oh, the idea that the world building isn’t too deep in this book has me worried. The creation of a complex back story along with the development of a believable and wide-spanning world are my two shiver-inducers in YA dystopian lit.

  2. Uh-oh, the idea that the world building isn’t too deep in this book has me worried. The creation of a complex back story along with the development of a believable and wide-spanning world are my two shiver-inducers in YA dystopian lit.

  3. Whew — having just finished Megan McCafferty’s Bumped, which sounds like it deals with a similar premise but in a much more light-hearted way, I don’t know how I would feel about this one! I’m definitely intrigued by the premise, though, and it’s no surprise that it’s the first in a series. I haven’t read a stand-alone YA dystopian in… well, never.

  4. Whew — having just finished Megan McCafferty’s Bumped, which sounds like it deals with a similar premise but in a much more light-hearted way, I don’t know how I would feel about this one! I’m definitely intrigued by the premise, though, and it’s no surprise that it’s the first in a series. I haven’t read a stand-alone YA dystopian in… well, never.

  5. I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether or not to read this one. After reading your review I’m not sure I will. I’m not much of a dystopian reader anyways, so the few I do read have to be exceptional (think Hunger Games) or else I’m bound not to like them. Excellent review!

  6. I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether or not to read this one. After reading your review I’m not sure I will. I’m not much of a dystopian reader anyways, so the few I do read have to be exceptional (think Hunger Games) or else I’m bound not to like them. Excellent review!

  7. This book is definitely making the rounds! It seems to be getting mostly positive reviews, though. I might have to read it at some point…

  8. This book is definitely making the rounds! It seems to be getting mostly positive reviews, though. I might have to read it at some point…

  9. I have heard so much about this book — it makes me want to dip my toes in 🙂

  10. I have heard so much about this book — it makes me want to dip my toes in 🙂

  11. Nice review. I’m anxious to read this one. I didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy though.

  12. Nice review. I’m anxious to read this one. I didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy though.

  13. That sounds like a world I don’t want to live in. This book has gotten such buzz, I’m curious to read it.

  14. That sounds like a world I don’t want to live in. This book has gotten such buzz, I’m curious to read it.

  15. Interesting review. I’ve heard a lot about this book and I appreciate your thoughts. So much dystopia in YA these days!

  16. Interesting review. I’ve heard a lot about this book and I appreciate your thoughts. So much dystopia in YA these days!

  17. I posted my review a week ago! I really liked this one too! I’m definitely looking forward the the rest of the books in the series.

  18. I posted my review a week ago! I really liked this one too! I’m definitely looking forward the the rest of the books in the series.

  19. I think yours may be the first review that actually points out a negative in this book! I have to admit it’s refreshing, there is so much love going around it’s hard to believe. Strangely this might just be enough to convince me to read it. 🙂

  20. I think yours may be the first review that actually points out a negative in this book! I have to admit it’s refreshing, there is so much love going around it’s hard to believe. Strangely this might just be enough to convince me to read it. 🙂

  21. I loved this one. I was much less focussed on the world built around them as I was in exploring the characters. The most compelling part of the story, for me, was the sister wives story. How those relationships developed and how the dynamic was carried through to the relationships with Linden was what made the story.

    I’m interested to see how it all progresses given the end of this first book.

  22. I loved this one. I was much less focussed on the world built around them as I was in exploring the characters. The most compelling part of the story, for me, was the sister wives story. How those relationships developed and how the dynamic was carried through to the relationships with Linden was what made the story.

    I’m interested to see how it all progresses given the end of this first book.

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