Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Review Source: eARC from S&S GalleyGrab for honest review
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
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 limited time she has left.
I was so struck by Wither that I just had to read it within one day. I couldn’t put it down! Honestly, the prose is so hauntingly beautiful. There was something incredibly Gothic-like about the mansion setting.... so physically beautiful, yet restrictive and full of secrets. The characters are so interesting as well. I instantly liked Rhine: she was strong and tough, but she was also smart. Each character is so well developed and distinct, and they all have hidden elements of themselves. Linden is a character that you’re set up to despise, yet despite his lack of backbone there’s something likable in him somewhere under the surface. Housemaster Vaughn is really the only character who felt a bit flat to me; it would have been nice to have more background on him in order to understand his motivations.
There is something so horrifying yet fascinating about this book. There are terrible things that happen, but they’re so different and foreign from the world we experience, that you can’t help but be intrigued as well. The fact that Cecily, one of Rhine’s sister-wives, is only 13 years old as she's excited about having sex with her new husband is incredibly disturbing, but these are the topics that DeStefano isn’t afraid of tackling. I never thought I would read a book about polygomy and enjoy it, but this uncomfortable topic is handled so well.
I’ve read reviews where people have trouble with the premise of the story or with the whole world that has been created. I saw it questioned why young men who are going to die soon anyway would bother having children, and I think this is a valid question. The biggest problem people seem to have with the book is that Rhine would bother even thinking of escape when life in the mansion is safe and privileged, and the outside world is dangerous and scary. I guess it all comes down to the question of free will and whether you think choice makes all the difference. Even though Rhine has life in the mansion easy (perhaps to an unexplainable level), should she be expected to prefer safe captivity to the alternative of freedom with her brother? I choose to believe that freedom matters more, and perhaps that's why these issues didn't hinder my love of this book.
This book isn’t perfect, and I can understand the qualms that people have with it, but I have to say that I was blown away with the imagination of the plot, the gritty truths, and the characters. I was completely swept up in this book; there was something day-dreamy and magical about the prose, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens to Rhine and Gabriel in the next book.
Find Wither by Lauren DeStefano on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.ca