Wither (Chemical Gardens #1) by Lauren DeStefano
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 limted time she has left.
I read Wither awhile back and it's taken me weeks to write up a review. Mainly because this book impacted me so much and I just couldn't put into words how I felt about it. Wither was intense, beautifully written, and I wasn't able to put it down until I turned the last page. Lauren DeStefano blew me away with her debut and I cannot wait to see what's next for her.
To begin with, Rhine was a fantastically done protagonist. From the day she is kidnapped, taken to a futuristic Florida, and married to a man with two other teenage girls, her life changes forever. She is locked inside a huge mansion, doomed to live her days married to a man she doesn't love, until the day she dies- which is only a few short years away, since women die at age 20 in Rhine's world. But Rhine stayed strong throughout the ordeal and never gave up hope.
While Rhine was the main character, I got to really know the other characters as well. Particularly Rhine's sister wives. Cecily and Jenna. Two young girls that couldn't be more different from each other and Rhine, but the three formed a friendship unlike any other. My heart broke for the trio as each was dealing with their situation differently and had their own pasts to haunt them. Throughout the story Rhine looks back on her own tragic past and thinks of her twin brother, wondering how he is now that she is gone. Rhine also befriends a young guy who works in the mansion, Gabriel, and I am eager to see what's next for them in the sequel. Another key character is Linden- the girls' husband. While at first I expected to hate him, I couldn't. He was as controlled and locked up as the girls. The real danger was another man.
There was no shortage of action and mysteries, as Rhine and her sister wives navigated their new life and learned that danger still lurked around every bend. This was a dystopian novel like no other, and Lauren DeStefano introduced a variety of horrifying twists in this dystopian society. Rhine had to make some difficult decisions throughout the novel and my heart went out to her. I was constantly wondering- what would I do if I was in her shoes? Could I be half the person she was?
Wither was a captivating and heart breaking novel that doesn't hold back. Lauren DeStefano is one amazing author and I recommend picking up Wither as soon as possible. I am anxious to find out more about the sequel!
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
March 22, 2011/Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing/356 Pages/Young Adult/Book One
Source: Publisher (ARC)