- Title: Wither
- Author: Lauren DeStefano
- Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1
- Next Book: Fever
- Source: Library
Description from Goodreads:
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’ve had Wither on my TBR list for a while, but I recently started following Lauren DeStefano on Twitter, and after seeing all of the angry tweets regarding Sever (the final book in the trilogy), I knew I had to move this series to the top of my list so I could find out what everyone’s talking about!
I felt like Wither started off with a bang. It picks up with Rhine in the dark, which we quickly find out is the back of a van. Next thing she knows, she’s in a line-up, being examined by a wealthy young man. She is chosen, along with two other girls, and led to the back of a limo. The first chapter was fairly short, but I just loved it. I liked that we were thrown into the middle of this situation. There was no build-up or exposition.
I found the writing style really interesting in Wither. It was slower than I usually like, but at no point did I find it boring. Honestly, it kept me sucked in mostly because I just didn’t know how to feel or what to expect. I was confused, in the best of ways, throughout most of the book. I found myself constantly forgetting certain aspects of the book. First, this book takes place in Florida, in what I assume is around the 2160s. I could be off by a decade or so, but that’s where I figured it to be. Rhine mentions the 21st century a lot, and says that the First Generations were born around the turn of the century. (I think. I may be remembering incorrectly.) However, at times, and I can’t even articulate why, I felt like I was reading a historical fiction. Maybe it had to do with young girls (13-18 years old) being brides, having babies, and living on sprawling estates, but sometimes I forgot that it took place in the future. Also, Rhine is married to a wealthy man, so she is living in the lap of luxury. Who wouldn’t love that? Sometimes, while reading about her day-to-day life, I forget that she was taken forcibly from her home and forced into this marriage, because it just seemed so amazing.
The characters kept me just as unsure about my feelings as the world did. I was never sure whether or not to trust Rhine’s sister wives, Cecily and Jenna. Sometimes they seemed like the best friends Rhine could have, but sometimes there was just something about them that made me uneasy. And Linden, Rhine’s husband. He is such a confusing character. For most of Wither, neither Rhine nor the reader really know what to think of him. He seems to really care about his wives and to be a good guy, but at the same time, he has basically forced these girls to marry him. I was never sure whether he was supposed to be a villain or not. I think my favorite characters in Wither, though, were the attendants, specifically Deirdre and the head cook. I’m not even sure why, but I just found them appealing. The only character I never questioned my feelings about was Linden’s father, Vaughn. He was just a creepy old man!
Due to my fluctuating feelings throughout reading Wither, I honestly have a hard time deciding how I felt about the ending. I suppose, in a way, it was satisfying, given Rhine’s perspective throughout the book, but I had really mixed feelings about it. I’m wondering if that was Lauren DeStefano’s goal in the book: to keep you guessing and never sure who to trust or how to feel. I don’t know. I haven’t read any other reviews of this book, so maybe it’s just me! lol Either way, I was glad that I also had Fever in my possession, and I was anxious to see what would happen next.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Wither. It was not what I expected when I read the description, but I was pleasantly surprised.