Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Source: Publisher
My Goodreads rating

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being 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 Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
With a uniquely tragic premise, a remarkable main character and beautifully descriptive prose, Wither is one of those novels that totally consumes one's attention as you read--and you find yourself feeling bereft once you've finished.

Rhine had such a compelling internal voice that I instantly connected to her as she tried to cope to her surroundings and forced responsibilities as a new bride. She has this intensity to her that greatly marked her actions and words; but despite the inner strength she has, she's overwhelmed with the jarring change from being a relatively poor young woman to suddenly being catapulted to a life of luxury where anything's within reach (except for her freedom, of course). Her relationship with her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily, was fascinating for me as a reader because it frankly boggles my mind as to how a trio (or more!) of women can share one husband.

Their husband Linden was a character that inspired both sympathy and umbrage: his world is filled with veiled truths that it was difficult for me to hate him but his absolute lack of trying to understand what was around him and simply accepting things as they came was incredibly discouraging. This, however, doesn't stop me from waving the Team Linden flag. (I like Gabriel, I do, but Linden seems a better fit for Rhine in my opinion. But who knows what'll happen in the next two books?))

DeStefano's writing was one of my favorite things about the book: it was simplistic and yet there were moments that read like poetry. The imagery that DeStefano was able to convey with only a few words was amazing; she also handled the polygamous plot line with expertise and unbiased--there weren't any subliminal messages of THIS IS WRONG anywhere throughout the book. It simply was what it was. The world building might be a little iffy to some (there's very little mention of the scientific aspect that's described in the summary) but I was okay with that--I'm a newcomer to science fiction so Wither was a good way of dipping my toes into the genre. I guess you could call it a "soft" science fiction and I look forward to seeing how DeStefano will flesh out those subplots later on in the trilogy.

Gorgeous writing and an arresting set of characters made Wither a truly fantastic book and I can't recommend this book enough: if you see it at a bookstore, a library, someone's house--grab it. (Well, ask if it's at someone's house. Seriously though, plead for it!) Wither is more of character-driven novel than full out science fiction but if you enjoy introspective character growth combined with an unusual premise (like I do), then you'll definetely enjoy it!

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