Wither (Chemical Garden #1)
Hardcover, 356 pages
Simon & Schuster
March 22, 2011
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 limited time she has left.
I'll be honest … I'm not a big fan of dystopian books. There are exceptions of course but as a whole, they're not part of my preferred reading lists. Saying that, I will go ahead and say that Wither is already pretty high up on that list of exceptions.
This story literally had me by the heartstrings from the very beginning and didn't let me go until the very bitter end. Now, I want to know more. There are so many questions that I have that I am assuming at this point in time will be answered in the upcoming books of the trilogy, so I'm not holding any marks against it until then.
There were different stories weaved into the novel so intricately that none ever seemed out of place or misguiding in any way. Rhine is not only telling her story in the present as a sister wife, but you also get glimpses of her past as she tries so desperately to hold onto her memories of where she came from so she can keep her goal in mind – which is always to get back to her twin brother. Then there's the part of Rhine who is trying to win the favor of her husband, House Governor Linden, so she can gain more freedoms to help in her plan of escape. I must say that I hold a soft spot in my heart for Linden. He seems so innocent and sweet that, at times, I was like Rhine who was won over and thought on occasion that her life now wasn't so bad if she ran out of time and died. Gabriel, I like but I'd also like to know more about him. We know he's sweet and has feelings for Rhine, but he's not given enough “screen time” for my liking, which I hope will change in the upcoming books. The sister wives were also a good addition to the story. I love the friendship that bloomed between Jenna and Rhine throughout the novel. Jenna is that girl that you definitely want on your side, and the girl who I'd say you'd want because she's a fierce friend in her own ways. Cecily... is an iffy for me. I love that she developed and matured in the story. However, it really disturbed me how willing she was to be the perfect wife … at only thirteen. What she goes through at her age still nags at me, and leaves me feeling a little sick. Like I said, she matured through her experiences and I admire her choice at the end of the book – but I can't say she stole my heart like the other characters, though I'm prone to say it has a lot to do with her age and maturity level as well.
Dystopian novels some times disturb me. This one was the same way. I'm 27 and I feel like I've barely experienced life. Here, in this world in the novel, girls die at 20 and boys at 25. I couldn't imagine being born into that world and really not having the chance to live. With that being said, Lauren Destefano did an incredible job at building her world and her characters. Although most of this novel is set in the house that was made to be Rhine's home, there's too many things going on for it to ever drift into a boring story. There's always something going on and, during the parts that may lull, there are stories of Rhine's past to fill in that void.
I devoured this book in one sitting. While the ending seemed pretty perfect for the novel, it definitely leaves a lot of questions to be answered. But like I said, I'm sure those will be answered in the future books. It doesn't take away from this novel at all and I was satisfied with how this one wrapped up. I'm looking forward to the upcoming novels in the series.
Source: ARC, Publisher