Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Book Jacket

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking 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.


I was so looking forward to Wither.  The cover is beautiful, and a dystopian book exploring the ramifications of genetic engineering and forced polygamous marriages sounds like all kinds of cool.  But just about everything fell short of awesome.  No, it fell short of good. 

The ideas were all interesting, but nothing was fleshed out realistically.  I like my urban fantasy and dystopian to be so well thought out that I actually believe a little bit that it could be real.  Not so this time.  The foundational idea--that curing all diseases produced a super generation that in turn produced a dying generation makes no sense.  Why do girls live to age 20 but boys live to age 25?  There's absolutely no explanation.  And that's without even questioning why they die young at all.

And maybe I missed something, but how is polygamous marriages the answer to everything?  I get the need to reproduce quickly, and so the idea of 13-year-old brides didn't really squick me (though the book seemed to think it should).  It's been done before when life expectancies were short, so it seemed natural that it would again be the case.  But why polygamy?  And COME ON, if there's polygamy for the sake of reproducing, why did Rhine not reproduce??  No matter how nice Linden is, that was absolutely ridiculous.  They were married, for goodness' sake.

Also, why kill the girls who aren't chosen as brides?  I'm sorry, stupid much?  I get that the story needed to be dramatic and stuff, but no.  That is just wastefulness.  And if the smarter alternative is prostitution or at least a different forced marriage, then shouldn't the characters that hate such things at least consider the idea that death is a better option?  Apparently not.

Okay, and there's the whole love story anyway.  DeStefano wavered somewhere around a love triangle, but it was so poorly executed.  We're supposed to hate Linden at first, but even before we find out why she should like him, Rhine is feeling sorry for him!  NO.  Commit to your feelings, Rhine, and don't meta over them.  And Gabriel?  Big waste of space.  I didn't need him in the story at all, and he wasn't given enough page coverage for me to begrudgingly care for him either.  Their love was too fast with no basis other than "do you hate it here too?  yeah?  okay, let's have a forbidden love affair!"

And then there's Vaughn, Linden's dad.  He's supposed to be this horrible guy, but a lot of the time I agreed with him.  Sure, maybe secrets aren't the smartest thing toward earning people's trust, but the experiments he did in the basement made all kinds of sense to me.  Maybe that comes from rooming with two pre-med students in college, but dissecting corpses doesn't squick me.  Especially when the world's population is dying out crazy fast.  I'm going to go ahead and say that some organ searching is in order there.  However, I will say that Vaughn did some truly awful things.  No doubt about that.  But the research?  I'm sorry, why are they doubting that he's working on an antidote?  Way to give up all hope, Rhine.

So much potential.  All wasted.  The ending was anti-climactic.  I might read the next in the series out of morbid curiosity, so here's hoping all these shortfallings have unexpected explanations.  Or I might just have another rant review on my hands.

Whaa?  Wither got 4 1/2 stars on amazon?  Did I miss something??

Two out of five holographic pools.

Release Date:  March 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL DES

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Wither:

Simply Stacie

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