Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
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.Heartbreaking and absorbing, Wither introduces readers to a consuming world where polygamy is encouraged and forced upon. An abstract, evasive reality is richly developed by DeStefano's captivating words and dynamic characters. The dystopian setting and environment pulls readers into an intricate web of deception, entrapment, and elegance. To some, a few ideas and concepts in Wither might be intangible and taboo, but the depth of emotion and understanding that Rhine's experiences demand from the reader are so deep and evocative. Wither, and the characters within it, teeter the fine line of belief and morality, and challenge the controversial ideas present today.
Rhine's character is compelling. Imprisoned both emotionally and physically, Rhine is strong-willed and naive. In such a constrained environment, her emotions fly off the page with the desire for freedom. On the outside, her obedience is similar to that of her sister wives, with a spark of rebellion. But underneath Rhine's well-established facade are underlying complexities and hidden layers of depth that spark emotions within the reader and substantiates the hopeful undercurrent in the slowly withering world.
DeStefano immerses readers in a world where age and beauty are valued, but where lifespans don't last beyond 20-25. The harsh reality in Wither is the base for the characters' problems but doesn't hinder their own, individual thoughts. The way each character deals with the concept of a short lifespan is different and provides a variety in an almost-hopeless reality. As readers, only a small part of Rhine's world is shown, but glimpses of a world outside of the the manor's gates are seen, giving a glimmer of hope. The plot is full of manipulation and pretenses, filling the pages with lots of twists and turns. Despite the pit of treachery and guile, such beautiful, genuine bonds are formed between the sister wives and between Rhine and Gabriel.
Wither is an absolutely stunning read with a magnetizing cast of characters that emote so much feeling into its pages. Its mesmerizing play on words and descriptive world, truly cements DeStefano as master in YA dystopian. The dynamics and the elements of dystopian and realism incorporated into Wither, fuse together to create a beautiful start to a new series.
The Bottom Line: Wither will never wither in my mind. Pun intended!
My reaction/enjoyment: 10/10
Total Score: 95/100 (A+)