Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Published March 22, 2011
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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 don’t want to recap the book since the goodreads recap pretty much says it all, so I’m going to jump right into the review. Firstly, I would like to say how much I love the author’s writing style. She has a way of writing that grips you, even if the story might not. I had a few problems with the book, and in order to end this review on a good note, might as well get my “issues” out of the way so we can continue to the good points. I will try to keep serious spoilers out of the review.
The book’s premise is that a virus kills all women at 20 and all men at 25. I couldn’t wrap my head around this, since I’m pretty sure no viruses ever are that specific. I could believe it if maybe “around middle age a virus struck”. But to hit at specific ages? I just couldn’t buy into that theory.
If people are dying so young, who is raising their kids? Or teaching the next generation? 20 is not mature or old enough to have a stable career. You cannot learn everything you need to know, make mistakes, and find better solutions, which is what humanity’s ability to educate the next generation is based on in 5ish years (lets pretend they start learning young). It just isn’t enough time to learn a career and do something with it. And yes there are a few first generation people left but not enough to raise everyone and teach the people that will just die as soon as they learn, not to mention run what’s left of the world. It doesn’t make sense how society continues with everyone dying just as they hit maturity.
On top of the virus, the polygamy, and the child brides, the book tries to be dystopian, too. The other continents, besides North America, have been destroyed. How? Why? Its just kind of thrown into the book. It has nothing to do with anything in the book and isn’t really explained. The issue with the continents in itself raises way too many questions. I think that should have just been left out of the book entirely.
Vaughn is stealing women and killing the ones they don’t want. What was the point of killing them? They could have saved bullets and just let them loose. It seemed unreasonably cruel and made no sense to me.
Lastly, our heroine, Rhine, is not really a strong heroine. She wants to escape, she doesn’t want to escape. MAKE up your mind! Also, she has a way to hurt both Vaughn and Linden just by telling Linden the truth. The truth about her history, about Jenna’s history, and about Linden’s history that he doesn’t know about. He’d get pissed at Vaughn and she would have an alley in getting free, but she doesn’t tell him anything. WHY!?! Say something! Do something! You want to get out? Do something about it. I think that grated on my nerves the most.
I loved Jenna, one of Rhine’s sister wives. She was a strong character. She did what she needed to do, and she didn’t waiver in how she felt, or who she was. I loved her almost right from the start.
Even though there were a lot of points in the book I couldn’t connect with, and even though I was left with a billion questions, I kept reading. This was strictly due to the author and her writing style. I think I have the potential to be a huge fan of this author. I can guarantee I will be picking up other books by her, just most likely not in this series.