Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Guest Review: Wither

Once again Sarah's here to share her latest read...

- Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon & Schusters Children's Publishing

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?

Wither is a dystopian YA book, set in a post-apocalyptic world where only North America has survived (guess the nationality of the author!).  The human race is left battling against a terrible, genetically created virus that kills every man at the age of 25, and every woman at the age of 20.  In order to keep humanity alive teenage girls are often captured from their homes, and married off to become, essentially, baby-making machines. 

One of these abducted teens is Rhine, a 16-year-old feisty blonde, who is torn away from her male twin and married, with two other abductees, to Linden – a sweet, deluded, rich 21-year-old, who is grieving the death of his first wife, and true love.  Battling to hold on to the memory of who she is and where she came from, Rhine refuses to accept her virtual imprisonment, especially as Linden’s father Vaughan (one of the only older people left alive)is a shadowy, secretive scientist seeking a cure for the virus by any means necessary.

Rhine forms a strong, wonderfully believable bond with her ‘sister wives’ despite her refusal to accept their situation, and her interactions with Vaughan inject a strong sense of peril into the novel.  The world that has survived is familiar enough to sit easy within the story, yet wonderous enough for us to share in Rhine’s awe at the life the remaining rich people live.

It’s not all perfect though – a lot of questions are left unanswered, and not always in a good way!  Why Rhine never chooses to enlighten Linden as to his father’s true nature is beyond me, as is the murder of unwanted brides.  The love triangle that develops is totally believable for once branch, but perplexing for the other.  I also have to admit, I really don’t like, or get, the cover-art. All in all though an excellent start to The Chemical Garden trilogy, and one I shall be continuing with. 

One for fans of Divergent and The Forest of Hands and Teeth, 8 out of 10.


  1. She so should have told him! And the romance, oh well, everything can't be perfect. At least it was a good world, even if I wanted more info

  2. I enjoyed this one, but wanted it darker. I know! I'm strange. I am so curious about Vaughan. I hope he continues to be a right bastard. Love a good villan. LOL

  3. I read this one awhile back and enjoyed it as well. It wasn't perfect but it definitely left me wanting more. I'm VERY eager to get my hands on a copy of the 2nd book at some point :) Great review!