Nyx Book Reviews

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Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
(The Chemical Garden #1)

3 out of 5 stars
Published March 22nd 2011 by Simon & Schuster

Set in a world where girls die when they are twenty years old and boys when they’re twenty-five, Rhine is abducted and sold to be one of the three new brides of Linden. There is only one thing on her mind – escape. But as the months fly by, the luxurious life she’s leading now begins to ensnare her.

I was drawn to Wither by the premise. A dystopian where people don’t age above puberty? Sounds like a good ground for an action packed novel! I was sorely disappointed by that aspect. Absolutely nothing happens. At the start, when Rhine is getting kidnapped, I was very excited, but after that she just sits around. She jumps on a trampoline with fellow brides. Rhine goes to a party. Rhine eats sweets. Rhine reads a book in the library. Wither is almost four-hundred pages long, but it could just as well been one hundred. Ms DeStefano has a very distinct writing style, often called “haunting” and “beautiful”. For me it felt more like “lifeless”. Every page is written in the same way. There is no speeding up, no slowing down.

I get what Ms DeStefano was trying to accomplish in Wither. The big action isn’t important, it’s the little details. It’s in the little ways the brides rebel against their captors. On me, all this detailing was completely lost. That only works when you’re invested in the characters, but I never felt that sorry for Rhine. She sits around for months doing absolutely nothing but eating and sleeping and having fun. The reason she wants to escape so bad is her twin brother, but as he only gets mentioned by Rhine herself, he feels more like a convenience than an actual character.

Even the ending, for which I was hoping that it would shock me and make me go, “Whoa, this is awesome!” was a huge anti-climax. They waited a year to do that? Really?

One last thing I would like to point out is Ms DeStefano’s extreme love for her country. I quote from page 55 of the paperback version:

“All we were taught of geography was that the world had once been made up of seven continents and several countries, but a third world war demolished all but North America, the continent with the most advanced technology.”

Most advanced technology?! Ha, they wish! The continent with most advanced technology is clearly Asia. Ever seen a documentary on Japan? If there is a country with advanced technology, it’s Japan. Unless Ms. DeStefano calls weapons of war “advanced technology”, then I guess she’s right. The whole book is filled with remarks towards America’s superiority over the other continents. As a European, this rubbed me completely the wrong way.

I know a lot of you have loved and will keep on loving Wither, but this wasn’t for me. I think that if you go in expecting a subtle novel, you will very much enjoy this one. I will read Fever (mostly because I already bought it) and see if I like that one better.

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?

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