Series: Chemical Garden #1
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
From the Publisher: 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?
I really struggled with whether to give this one a 4 or a 5. The writing was amazing, the character development was incredible, and the plot was freshly original. Yet, I found myself able to set it down for long periods of time before I picked it up again (to be clear – “long periods of time” for me = an hour or two). By the end, I was very emotionally invested in Rhine, Gabriel, Linden, and even Cecily and her baby Bowen.
Lauren DeStefano’s mind must be a pretty incredible place. Dystopian novels are clearly the latest fad in YA, yet hers stands apart from the others, not even trying to be like every other book out there. There is, of course, the requisite love triangle (and let me stop for just a moment and say that I think Rhine absolutely should have told Linden the truth about everything that was going on). But while the dystopian nature of this society is certainly a large plot point, it’s the characters and relationships that they build with one another that drive the book. And to me, that’s a huge plus.
Wither certainly has a dark side. There’s death. And a lot of it. There’s deception and murder and threats. Kidnapping. Brute force. But Rhine always has hope, and it effects every person she comes into contact with. Rhine is the kind of person that little girls want to be like when they grow up (not circumstantially of course).
Bottom line? If you want a fresh take on a Dystopian society in a beautifully written book, pick up Wither.