Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Posted December 29, 2011 by Renae // 3 Comments

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither (Chemical Garden #1)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR

Summary from Goodreads:

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings.

This was a surprising read. I would never have picked it up on my own, but I’m glad to have read it. Wither is engaging and unique, and though it isn’t earth-shattering by any means, I liked it all the same.

I’ve read only a smattering of dystopian novels, and the setup for this seemed to be quite nearly the same as my other experiences. After World War Three, North America (The United States, to be specific), was the only landmass left populated. Science has made tremendous headway in spite of the world’s near-annhiliation, but it’s taken a bad turn and is now seen by most as ‘evil’. The heroine is affected by the ‘evil science’, and is on a quest to make her life count in spite of her problems. Really, DeStefano doesn’t bring anything new to the table here.

It’s all in the presentation.

Rhine’s character is wonderfully fresh and dynamic; her responses to the situation she’s placed in make sense. Her reaction to the idyllic life her husband presents her is reasonable, her sister wives are interesting and real.

And the author can write like nobody’s business. In YA, it’s the norm for an author to tell a good story, and this is no exception. But it’s less common for a good story to be told in brilliant prose. DeStefano is an excellent writer, undeniably.

The author seems determined to have only one ‘bad guy’. She makes great effort to clear Linden (the husband) of all guilt, and even the silly red-headed sister wife is made to look noble in the end. All the blame is laid at the feet of Linden’s dad, one of those ‘evil scientists’ who performs vivisection in order to discover the reason for mankind’s issues. Never mind the fact that he wants the best for his son. I think it’s very telling that the book’s ‘bad guy’ is a scientist.

And then there’s the age thing. Rhine’s domestic (AKA slave), is eight or nine years old, but she’s some kind of brilliant and unparalleled seamstress. Yes, I understand that the normal lifespan has dropped drastically, but I highly doubt an eight year old girl has the attention span to sit still long enough to a) learn how to sew; and b)sew endlessly, twelve hours a day. My sister is eleven, and she couldn’t do it. So really, the shortened lifespan is entirely unrealistic, and it annoyed me to no end.

A fantastic book. This is why I read YA—for those authors who really try and give more than a humdrum story. Recommended to anyone who loves the genre.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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3 responses to “Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

  1. ShattertheSilenceCo.

    I found that although it was a great book, the storyline didn’t go along with the premise. I was expecting that the short lifespan would be explored more in the story, but it was only mentioned about 2 times in the whole book. The book was more about Rhine’s life as wife of Linden. I guess I would’ve liked more dystopian elements.