Wither, by Lauren DeStefano, was published in 2011 by Simon & Schuster.
Thanks to modern science, every newborn 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 is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
Wither is one of those books where beautiful writing and thought-provoking situations mask an inconsistent world (or a world that simply doesn’t make a lot of sense). I’m glad that DeStefano clears up fairly early on some of the nature of the virus that kills people so young; the way it was described at the beginning, I thought that it just caused people to drop dead when they hit a certain age which made absolutely no sense to me. But there is variation, and that helped to lessen the unrealisticness of the whole concept even if I still don’t understand how something like that would work, or how it came to be in the first place (no doubt the purpose of the second or third book).
Speaking of unrealistic, the whole science/naturalism divide made absolutely no sense to me. I suppose it could be explained away with a breaking down of what terms mean in this dystopian world, but still, naturalism is not what Wither says it is and science often goes hand-in-hand with naturalism (naturalism uses science, for goodness sake!), so that divide was incomprehensible to me. Also incomprehensible was the reveal that only the United States exists; everything else was wiped out and is just a collection of floating bits of dirt or something. Yeah, sure. (Luckily, it’s implied that’s not true towards the end of the novel.)
And I don’t want to seem like I’m completely bashing the book, because honestly I did like it—the writing was good and there was some pretty imagery and even though the romance aspect has been done a million times before and is really boring by now, I did like that the book spent so much time on Rhine’s experience as a bride. And DeStefano did a fantastic job of setting up the tension between the brides, even if I thought Rhine was being a bit selfish and stupid at the end in terms of Cecily, and I liked the good development of the creepiness of Linden’s father (who is no doubt coming back, and probably will be revealed to have had some sort of hand in some aspect of the virus).
So, not all bad. I just didn’t understand the world, and that cut back on my enjoyment.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Warnings: Polygamy, implied sex, some graphic imagery
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
“Why do you call him Governor Linden?” I ask her. During our wedding dinner Housemaster Vaughn explained to us that he was to be addressed as Housemaster, because he was the highest authority in the house. But we were expected to call our husband by his given name as a sign of familiarity.
“Because I hate him,” she says.
There’s no malice n the words, no dramatic outburst, but something in her gay eyes says she means it.
Wither has beautiful writing and imagery, and there’s a lot of interesting things to pull out of the book—but the world does make the quality of the book go way down, in my opinion, because oftentimes the world makes no sense and is outright nonsensical at points. In addition, the romance is generic and Gabriel is an empty husk of a character, ultimately forgettable.
You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1TAzN8f