Monday, June 20, 2016

Review | Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
March 2011 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
358 pages
Amazon + Good Reads

"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?
-Good Reads

I have had a pretty interesting relationship with Wither. I picked it up based off of the cover alone. The picture I've included above merely hints at the beauty that is Wither's cover but seriously. If you can get your hands on the book just to admire it - do so. It is gorgeous. I mean it. Props to who ever was in charge of the cover design - you deserve a raise! 

But the problem started when I actually opened the book. Admittedly, dystopia is not my thing and I'm really hard pressed to like it... and I knew that going into Wither. As per usual, I read to about page 32, decided that it was not for me and set it down. I wasn't hooked by the main character, Rhine, and there were some pretty ginormous world building holes that I could not wrap my head around (I'll briefly touch upon those later). That being decided, I shut the book and decided it wasn't for me.

Now, a year later and three months into a "Clear Your Shelves" reading challenge, I decided to give Wither another shot to see if maybe my feelings had changed - and they have. For the most part. 

Overall, Wither was just okay. It wasn't the greatest book that I've ever read... but it wasn't the worst either. The idea behind the world that DeStefano has created is really intriguing - the human race is rapidly dying out and in a desperate attempt to repopulate, beautiful young women are sold into polygamous marriages to become baby factories (seriously, is there another polygamy book out there in YA?). But the execution of said world? Eh, not so much. 

DeStefano only gives tiny glimpses of the larger world that Rhine lives in: a post-WWIII earth in which the only continent left standing is North America, everything else has been reduced to tiny islands dotting the globe. North America's survival is chalked up to being the result of America being the most technologically advanced....... which was one of the points that stopped me in my first time around with this book. I assumed that this story was supposed to be an extension of the world that we live in... a possible "what if?"... which is why this part of the world gave me pause. America? The most technologically adept and thus the best contender to survive a catastrophic world war? Lets leave time for that to sink in.

Yeah. It still doesn't make any sense... but let's just hope that it become an elaborate lie that the government fed its citizens... Which brings me to my next issue with the world building - the government or more accurately, lack of. I would assume that a country that is advanced enough to become the only place left standing after a war that reduced the rest of the world to uninhabitable islands would have a government strong enough to have a very real presence... at least big enough to stop girls (as young as 13) from being kidnapped, sold into marriages against their will, sold into prostitution, or murdered and left to rot on the side of the road. But there is nothing. Nada. No mention of any sort of government that protects its citizens... or even a government that regulates the sale of young women into these polygamous marriages. DeStefano kind of, sort of, hinted at the larger world but did not expand on any of it... which is why I felt confused and why I abandoned the story the first time. 

I decided to set aside these issues and continue reading... and I was pleasantly surprised. I found DeStefano's version of America to be really intriguing. I didn't hate the story or the characters... and was actually curious to see where the story was going to end. I did not feel any strong connection with the characters (with the exception of Jenna, for some odd reason) but wanted them to be happy. The last main issue that I had with the story was the romance between Rhine and Gabriel (one of Linden's servants). I just didn't buy it - I think that a strong friendship between the two would have made more sense, allowing a possible romance to develop later on in the second or third book. I would have been more interested to see the feelings between Rhine and Linden change and develop because that was the romance that would have been believable for me.

Overall, Wither wasn't too bad. I'm hoping that the issues that I touched upon will be resolved or explained in the last two books but I won't be running out anytime soon to pick up the rest of the trilogy. I would recommend Wither to readers who enjoy YA dystopia. Just be warned - there are mild sexual allusions, polygamy, child brides, and a plot line in which a 20 year old man impregnates a 13 year old girl.

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