Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 22nd 2011
Genre: YA; dystopian
Source: Won from MaryAnn from Chapter by Chapter - thanks!
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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?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I wanted to love this book. I really did - the cover is gorgeous, everyone else seemed to have loved it, the idea sounded intriguing, and Lauren DeStefano is crazy awesome on Twitter. I honestly did not doubt that I would love this book as much as everyone else did. But... I didn't. It wasn't terrible - there are some very good aspects to Wither. But I didn't love it like I wanted to.
First off, the world-building. Emotionally, I found the world Lauren DeStefano created interesting, unique, and horrifying. I like that, unlike most dystopians, we're not up against an oppressive regime, but against nature - or what humanity has done to nature. And somehow, that's even more terrifying. The whole idea of kidnapping girls for polygamous marriages is fascinating, too. So emotionally and entertainment-wise, I did like the world of Wither.
But looking at it rationally, a lot of it just didn't make sense. What is this mysterious disease that's killing males at age 25 and females at age 20? I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that a disease killing off people at such an exact age is scientifically impossible. And the symptoms are strange, too - what does this virus do to people? I kind of doubt something like that could happen. Also, why did the rest of the world get completely destroyed in some kind of war while North America is fine? Again, I doubt it. I hope that this turns out to be false, that there's something out there that people aren't supposed to know about, because otherwise, that would just not be realistic. And on a smaller scale, I did not understand these Housemaster's and Governer's intentions. So you want to experiment with people in order to find a cure? Well then of course kindapping twenty girls, and killing 17 of them without using them for science makes perfect sense! Only 'keeping' three in order for those to reproduce is so much more prolific than just experimenting with those 20 girls, and kidnapping babies to experiment on them, considering there are so many orphans in this world. It makes sense to get these girls for Linden, to have wives so he can do whatever with them, but for Vaughn's research purpose, that's just illogical.
Those factual inaccuracies bugged me, but I probably could have still liked this book if everything else had been great. But it wasn't, at least not for me. The plot is what ruined this book for me, really. Wither starts out great - in the first few chapters, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. But after the first 50 pages or so, I felt like nothing more was happening, until the very end. It just went on and on about nothing, and it got very repetitive. I hate to say it, but I was bored by a large part of Wither, and it took me ages to finish the book because it the plot is so slow. Maybe that's because Wither is the first in the series and is supposed to be the set-up for the next two books, but I couldn't stand the slow and boring plot.
Okay, after all that criticizing, I feel the need to say something positive. And the best thing about Wither, without a doubt, is the writing. Lauren DeStefano's prose is descriptive and meaningful and just plain beautiful. It's so vivid - I felt like I was right there alongside Rhine. Even though I'm not loving this series, I'll probably read Lauren DeStefano's future books because I loved her writing style so much.
Rhine is an okay character. Except for her name, which I love because she's named after the river that's, like, 100 meters away from my house, she doesn't have much going for her. I have to admit there are parts where she's smart and brave, but she still annoyed me a little. I'm not even sure why, but I found her whiny and just didn't really connect with her.
Most of the secondary characters, though, are great! I loved reading about Rhine's relationship with Cecily and Jenna, especially Jenna - she's awesome! Linden is a good character, too, and I liked the complexities of Rhine's relationship with her husband. Vaughn is a believable villain. The only character I didn't like is Gabriel, sadly. I found him kind of boring, and didn't feel the chemistry between him and Rhine. He's a nice guy, but I didn't think there was anything special or interesting about him. Maybe his character will be developed more in the next book, though.
So... yeah. There are things I loved about Wither and things I hated. I'm not sure whether I'll be reading Fever - it might get better, since I felt like Wither was setting up a premise for the rest of the series, so it's possible the plot will move faster and be more interesting in the next books. But I've also heard some not-so-good things about Fever. What do you guys think - should I keep reading this series, or should I give up on it?
How important is the accuracy of little details to you? Do you just want to focus on the story, or do little inaccuracies in the world-building bug you like they bug me?