Release Date: March 22, 2011
Read it in: 1 day
The Hook: What if you knew exactly when you would die?
OMG, I don't even know where to begin. This book was INCREDIBLE! I read Wither in one day, I just could not put it down. Lauren DeStafano's ability to create a dystopian world and tell the story of a young girl trapped in that world was absolutely mind-blowing.
From the opening quote by T.S. Eliot to the disturbingly nightmarish first chapter to the last pages that bring you some glimmer of hope, this was one of those books you just can't help but be consumed by. Sometime in the not too distant future, Rhine Ellery is a 16 year old girl who lives in a world where females only make it to age 20 and males to age 25. A few generations back, geneticists had tried to create embryos that were immune to all disease and practically immortal, but in the process they introduced some kind of DNA into the genetic make-up that turns humans into ticking time bombs-- everyone now knows the age they will die. In an attempt to save the human race, girls as young as 13 are kidnapped by Gatherers to either be sold into polygamous marriages in order to breed more offspring, or to be killed. Rhine ends up being one of the "lucky" ones and enters into a world of wealth and privilege as one of the the three wives of Linden Ashby. Now she is surrounded by beauty, parties, and luxury-- but right under the surface, they are all closely followed by inevitable death and decay.
I listened to the interview Lauren DeStefano gave after reading Wither, and she says that the main theme of this book is uncertainty. She tells the story in present-tense because Rhine herself has no idea from one day to the next what is going to happen to her, or even if she'll be alive by the last page. It was this sense of uncertainty that had me totally captivated from beginning to end.
For me, Wither was not only completely engrossing, giving me a beautifully tragic story of a dystopian world, but it was intelligent as well. First, the author actually takes the time to tell you how the world got to be where it is, which I think is essential for any dystopian novel if it's going to be believable for the reader. Given the background, I could actually imagine this world. Second, the novel brings up some really deep questions. For me, I found myself thinking: is it better to be free and live in grinding poverty, or is it better to be held captive in the lap of luxury? Rhine finds herself in a "gilded cage," and only wants to get out to go back home to her brother, but even she sometimes questions: is it really so bad being enslaved when you're given almost everything you could possible want? What if you only had 4 years left to live? Is it really worth fighting for the things you value the most?
My recommendation? Go out and get this book immediately! I was absolutely blown away. The writing is beautiful. The plot balances both light and dark elements, and you can't help but be sucked into the dark eeriness that pervades Rhine's world where beauty and decay, and youth and death are so closely linked. Finally, the ending leaves you with some hope that life is going to be restored to the way it was, and you can't help but want more. I give Lauren DeStefano a standing ovation for this debut novel, and can't wait for the next book in her Chemical Garden Trilogy!!
I also wanted to include here the trailer for the book and the short interview with Lauren DeStefano, just to entice you a little bit more into reading this book ;)
Happy reading everyone!!