Genre: YA Dystopian
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 limted time she has left.
THANK GOODNESS for targeted facebook ads or I wouldn't have heard of this book, at least not right away. Lauren DeStefano's debut novel WITHER came out March 22, 2011, so there's still a promotion going on and you can read the whole thing online for free. But it's only for a limited time, and you do need to register at Simon and Schuster's Pulse It site. Definitely worth it, in my opinion!
I started reading this book last night and had to wait to get my confirmation email from Pulse It before I could continue past page 96! Luckily, I had stuff to do in between, like sleep. :) But when I woke this morning, the story crept back into the front of my mind, devastating and twisted and compelling. The facebook ad that led me to WITHER claimed fans of Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES would also love DeStefano's new planned trilogy, THE CHEMICAL GARDEN. In my case, they weren't lying. I read all day and finished at 3pm. I found definite similarities between the two authors' styles.
First person present tense.
Eloquent and tragic world building.
A modern America in which something has gone horribly wrong and evil men are taking advantage of the weak and unprotected.
Symbolism that makes you want to weep.
That last one is hard for me in any art form, but I also think it's important. We can't ignore the tragedies that happen in real life without losing our compassion and humanity. Dystopian literature is a key to this, and WITHER delivered. This dark YA novel deals with death, birth, sex, slavery, and the whole gamut of human emotion. There were times I was confused about how Rhine should feel toward her captors, just as she was. In the end, no matter what a person supposedly should feel, the true hero or heroine must be true to him or herself. And never worry, Rhine is.
Despite similarities which I'm sure many dystopian novels share, this book is not Hunger Games. The relationships are more intimate from the beginning because they are forced to be so, from the man Rhine is forced to 'marry' against her will to the boy who cleans up her vomit when she first arrives, drugged and delirious. There's less of a love triangle and more of a love tangle between Rhine and her sister wives, their shared husband, and the servant who becomes more than a listening ear.
The ending isn't the most satisfying thing ever, but I suspect that's true of most planned trilogies. There's more to come and Ms. DeStefano has left plenty of plot and character threads open for further discovery. I'm looking forward to future novels in The Chemical Garden trilogy. I especially want to know if there's hope for society after we've poisoned ourselves into near extinction. Lauren's answer to that will be one major reason I continue to read this series. And the other is that I care about Rhine. She's a main character worth rooting for and worth crying with.
WITHER is elegant and devastating.
Have you read Lauren DeStefano's debut novel yet? What were your thoughts?