Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Publish Date: March 22, 2011
Hardcover, 368 pages 
Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1

My Review:
Why I read this: It was a surprise from the publisher, and a book I really wanted to read.

My thoughts:
Wow, this is a powerful book in so many ways yet still entertaining.  What would you do if you knew that you would die by a certain age?  What would you do if you were taken by the "Gatherers" to be a suitable wife to a house Governor?  That is exactly what Rhine faces.  She is carefully existing in a post-apocalyptic type world where the genetics of humans were played with so much that the offspring of the super-race only live to 20 if you are female and 25 if you are male.  Pretty girls are snatched off the street to become one of several wives to the elite young men in society to simply exist to procreate so society can continue.  Scientists are looking for a cure for this generation, kind of  like they did before when they cured cancer and other diseases but left this problem to be taken care of.  Some exist to find the cure and some believe the race should just die off and not subject more children to the shortened lifespan.

That's the overview.  The real story is Rhine and how she becomes one of three wives to Linden.  But she doesn't want to be there, she wants to be back home in New York City with her brother.  Linden is kind as a husband and Rhine gets to know and like her "sister wives" Jenna and Cecily.  She doesn't like her new father-in-law though and she begins to suspect that things aren't always as they seem in the household she is living in.  But the good thing in the house is Gabriel, one of the house servants, who Rhine becomes fond of.  He and her brother keep her going and keep her from giving up even when things seem dire.

Rhine is a strong character.  I really liked her.  I liked how she was street smart enough to know how to handle Linden to get what she wanted.  In some ways this seems manipulative and wrong, but she didn't choose to be married and one of three wives.  She didn't choose this life she is living.  I liked watching her develop her friendships with Cecily and Jenna who made interesting secondary characters.  I liked Jenna, and Cecily not as much, but I think that was the point.  One additional thing I really loved was the description of the fashions that were worn and the servants that helped design and make them for the wives.  I loved this addition to the story.

The plot is amazing.  First the world building was so well done I could almost picture being a part of this world (scary as it is).  Second the plot just keeps you moving through the whole book.  What will happen next, what will Rhine do, how will she handle this situation?  The questions keep coming and keep being answered right up until the end.  The ending is tied up in a way but very open for the next in the series, which I cannot wait for.

To me this was the caliber of The Hunger Games - a world so horrible yet so real that you could almost believe in it.   An author who makes this world come to life and populates it with people you like and people you don't.  And an author who keeps the action moving at a pace that makes the book hard to put down and when you finish it you are dying for the next book.  A brilliant debut for what I see to be a very up and coming author.  I know I will eagerly await book #2 in The Chemical Garden trilogy.  I am eager to see more of Rhine and learn more about her world and how she finds her place in it.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

About the Book:

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?
About the Author (from her website): 

Lauren DeStefano was born in New Haven, Connecticut and has never traveled far from the east coast. She received a BA in English from Albertus Magnus College recently, and has been writing since childhood. She made her authorial debut by writing on the back of children's menus at restaurants and filling up the notepads in her mom's purse. Her very first manuscript was written on a yellow legal pad with red pen, and it was about a haunted shed that ate small children.

Now that she is all grown up (for the most part), she writes fiction for young adults. Her failed career aspirations include: world's worst receptionist, coffee house barista, sympathetic tax collector, and English tutor. When she isn't writing, she's screaming obscenities at her Nintendo DS, freaking her cats out with the laser pen, or rescuing thrift store finds and reconstructing them into killer new outfits.
FTC Information: I received this book from the publisher for a honest review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.


Unknown said...

I agree this was a very powerful book. I couldn't imagine living in a world like Rhine's. I look forward to the next book.

brandileigh2003 said...

I agree- wonderfully written and great characters.
Thanks for review.
Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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