Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano


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?
Wither is such a unique book, with a terrifying concept that pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go. The writing really blew me away! It was so elegant and descriptive. It set the tone for the whole book, which itself was very elegant and creepy at the same time.
All the characters were wonderful and real. I felt like I grew with Rhine to love the sister wives and Linden. They each seem to be much more than what they reveal on their outer shell. And of course, Vaughn was creepy!

Rhine’s character development was evident throughout the story. She starts out unsure, but ever determined to leave the life that she didn’t choose. She’s a strong young woman who won’t let anything get in her way. I really admired that about her. Honestly if I was stuck in her situation, I wouldn’t have fought the way she had.

I loved the setting of the mansion. It felt very classic. And the sprawling gardens just sounded gorgeous! I wish I could visit the mansion (although I have a feeling Vaughn wouldn’t want me to leave…)

And I loved all the gorgeous outfits that Rhine wore. They sounded as if they’d been plucked out of a project runway fairy tale! I found it rather unconvincing that an 8 year old could’ve made them, but I guess in that world, Diedre would want to learn as much as possible in her short life. 

The world building was…interesting. I think the idea that the whole population is dying out from an incurable disease is definitely creative, but I just wish the rest of the pieces to the puzzle fit together as well. While many girls are being sold into polygamous marriages and prostitution, many other girls who are kidnapped are simply killed. Why? Why not just let them run off, and never bother with them again? If the population is dying out, don’t get rid of those who are able to produce perfectly healthy offspring? That much just didn’t make sense to me. 

And I really don’t understand why America is the only continent left. I thought it was China with the most advanced technology. I can see how having America be the only place left can simplify things for the author. Now she doesn’t have to explain why the whole world is dying out, because there are many places that could never afford that kind of technology. And that brings me to my next question. 

How is it that everyone could afford to have this treatment to prevent all disease? There is so much poverty, and not even that high a risk of getting any deadly disease, so I don’t understand how or why everyone in America could get the treatment. The only explanation I can come up with is that the government required everyone to get it, and provided it free of charge, but that doesn’t make much sense either. 

Of course you can tell from the synopsis that this book isn't squeaky clean. I went into it expecting there to be tons of stuff that would make me uncomfortable, but I was happily surprised to see that there wasn't much of it. Rhine decides not to give into her husbands wishes, so  there's never anything happening but every once in a while it's discussed among the sister wives.  
(There's also a very graphic birth scene, but that didn't bother me because of my mother's obsession with watching TV shows about babies (Yep! She's a weirdo!)

I went into it already knowing some key plot points (Cecily’s pregnancy, Running away with Gabriel), so that may have affected my experience a bit, but all in all it was a wonderful story. I can’t wait to get my hands on Fever!


Part of the Catch Wither Fever Read-A-Long!


  1. I don't think your review was negative! It sounded like you really liked the story, even though there were some parts that you didn't quite understand.

    I was wondering about the whole killing of the girls, too. Did they think those girls would just have malformed children? Surely there's no real way to know, unless the girls were already malformed themselves and I guess that would mean that they'd have a high probability of having malformed children themselves.... But it still doesn't really make sense.

    And as far as North America having the most advanced technology (I talked about this in my Wither Discussion Post), I think that since this book is set so far in the future, it's hard to say which country would have the most advanced technology by then. But I do think that writers find it easier to place their story in a setting they know, so she might have decided on North America to be the surviving continent because she was more familiar with it. But those are just my speculations!

    Great review, and thanks so much for participating in the Catch Wither Fever event!

  2. I agree that the world wasn't particularly shocking, and you can see how hard DeStefano worked to pull that off. There's polygamy, sure, but in reality only one girl is actually acting married to Linden so...there's sort of not polygamy. And of course the protagonist, whom we are supposed to relate too, is totally against the whole thing.

    I thought DeStefano destroyed all the continents so she wouldn't have to explain exactly what you asked--how everyone afforded/accepted this treatment so easily. What about those few tribes who, as of yet, have very limited contact with the outside world? But...destroying the rest of the world didn't really solve
    all the questions after all.

    I agree that North America is the continent remaining simply because the author lives there. And considering that the book is primarily plot-based, it wouldn't even have been worth the research to set the story in a Chinese version of Linden's mansion. The only point is that it's luxurious and she's trapped. The location is ultimately irrelevant in terms of the plot.

  3. I loved the descriptions of Rhine's dresses too! :)

    I love what you said about it being unclear why America is the only continent left. I have a very hard time believing that. The author has some explaining to do in the later books. You can't just drop a bomb like that and never return to it.

    And your point about everyone receiving the genetic treatment/cancer cure or whatever is brilliant. Something like that had to be expensive, and you'd think some people would have also been skeptical of it and opted out. I can't see a government forcing everyone to have their genetics mutated.

    Great review! I'm glad you saw some of the same flaws I did!


I love comments, and I promise I read every single one. I do my best to reply to all your meaningful comments, so come back in a couple days to see if I have! And if you see that I've responded to others comments and not yours, it's just because I've been struck dumb by your awesomeness! And if you leave me a link to your blog, I'll try to stop by and comment!

This is an award and tag-free zone! I'm honored, but I don't have the time to pass it along )=

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...