Author: Lauren DeStefano
Published: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: 3/5 Stars
"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?" - Goodreads
- Beautiful storytelling and world-building: DeStefano's writing has a way of bringing the reader into the story and making them feel totally encapsulated in her world. The imagery used and the history/memory building is really fantastic. I just kept wanting to know more and more about Rhine and her little world and it was so much fun learning about it.
- Thought-provoking: This point really goes along with the world-building. DeStefano's picture of this horrifying new America in the not-to-distant future really makes you think about your place on the planet now and appreciate that we are not the only ones here. In Rhine's world all of the other countries have been totally decimated. Paris is just a memory, China has vanished, and Germany only exists in old atlases. Rhine's America is completely alone in the world and for some reason this really bothered me, in the best possible way. Don't get me wrong, I wave my flag and love a good fireworks display on the Fourth of July, just like most Americans, but I also like knowing that there are different cultures and places yet to be explored out there. I can't imagine being the last country on earth and what that would mean. DeStefano has made this world so believable that you can't help but reflect upon it.
- We're only here for a little while: A huge theme in this book is time. In the world of Wither men only live to be 25 and women only 20 so throughout the book Rhine and her companions are trying to make the most of the time they have left in different ways. The best part about this theme is that it doesn't just apply to DeSefano's characters. Sure we may have more like 80-something years on Earth but in the grand scheme of things that's no time at all. There are tortoises walking around that were born before our great grand parents after all. While reading Wither, I found myself reflecting on how short of a time we really have here and how important it is not to waste it. This is a great thing to be reminded of, especially in such a fun, creepy way and really helps you relate to Rhine and her sister wives.
- Again with the child-prostitution: Okay so I realize that there is a reason that this issue is included in the book: to underline the creepiness and cruelty of Rhine's world. Still, I will never get used to seeing this in books. One of Rhine's sister wives is only 13 at the beginning of this book! 13! Gross. Just not my cup of tea.
- Why romance? (POSSIBLE SPOILERS): The whole romance aspect of this book just seems pointless. There are basically two potential love interests in the story (yay love triangles, not). First there is Rhine's husband, Linden. He is a whimpy, clueless man who's father is holding Rhine prisoner. Not to mention he goes around impregnating 13 year olds (not cool). Why Rhine would even entertain the idea of being with this guy voluntarily is beyond me. Then we have Gabriel. He has his own drawbacks, mainly that he seems sort of okay living in this awful place and might have a pretty bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. Mostly, though, my problem with him as a romantic interest is that Rhine doesn't really know him at all. This is one of those books where I really don't see the need for romantic entanglements. I feel like they had a good story and then shoved some romance in for good measure. Not a fan.
- Very dark: And when I say dark I don't mean sort of spooky with some gore mixed in. I mean chopping up bodies in a basement dark. In a way this made it really unpleasant to read sometimes. At the same time though, this darkness is what gives the book its appeal and what keeps the reader going. You want to find out what's going on and suffering mentally along with Rhine makes you want that payoff even more.
In the end, I was really glad that I decided to go ahead and read this one. Even though it left me with some icky feelings and questions about my own cynicism, I really enjoyed it. I would recommend this to all lovers of dystopian, not so much for the romantics. I will definitely be checking out Fever and the final book in the trilogy Sever soon!