THE BOOK: Wither
AUTHOR: Lauren DeStefano
THE GENRE: Young Adult, Dystopian
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Lauren DeStefano
Wither is the first in a trilogy of dystopian YA novels by Lauren DeStefano set in a world where, fifty years previously, genetic manipulation has resulted in a lifespan of twenty five years for males and twenty years for females. With there only being a short window for each generation to reproduce, girls are snatched from street corners, orphanages and their own homes in order to be sold to the rich as brides. Society barely functions. The divide between the privileged and the poor has grown even wider. Modern humanity has never come quite so close to dying out.
Rhine lives a dangerous and watchful life with her twin brother before she is kidnapped at the start of the book. She is sold to Vaughn, a rich man who forces her to become one of his son’s wives. Vaughn is a ruthless scientist bent on finding a cure for his son no matter whose lives he might destroy in the process. He is also one of the last generation living a normal lifespan. Meanwhile, Rhine’s only desire is to escape and make it back home before her time runs out. She is sixteen. She only has four years left.
There have been many mixed reviews of this book, not only because it includes things that some might find shocking or bleak. This is indeed the most brutal YA book that I have read. More so than The Hunger Games. The author does not pull any punches. You are not told that the world is awful, you are shown it. In a world where human life is not worth much, it stands to reason that atrocities would occur.
It is certainly an interesting world and the unusual situation that the protagonist finds herself in ignited my curiosity. Even though she can be a bit callous, Rhine is a very sympathetic main character. It is not difficult to root for her. The supporting cast of characters are varied and nicely complex. The relationships in this book, familial, romantic or otherwise were well-written, extremely complex and very real. I particularly liked the relationships she had with her sister-wives.
However, the world is a little illogical. There were many things that didn’t make sense in regards to world-building and realistic societal consequences. For instance, the fact that nuclear war had supposedly destroyed the majority of the world’s continents yet North America was left mostly unscathed. Though the main flaw of novel and its sequels is that the science isn’t very convincing, which may interfere with your willing suspension of disbelief.
Despite this, everything that happens to the main characters feels realistic in the situations they are placed in and the plot is very compelling. It has many similarities to The Handmaid’s Tale. This first book is an escape narrative first and foremost. This is where it shines. At times I certainly had trouble putting it down. There are parts in the middle when the plot drags its feet a little but it never loses sight of the end goal. There is no doubt that it was well-written. The prose was very atmospheric and well structured. The author is very good at drawing you in with language and keeping you there.
While there are undeniable problems with this book, there are definitely moments that make up for its flaws. A sometimes thrilling, sometimes quieter yet moving piece of fiction. It is a dark portrait of a future which no one would want to experience firsthand. If you can ignore its bad points it can be very entertaining. Enough so that I will definitely be picking up the two sequels.
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance.”
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (16 Feb. 2012)
Genre: Science Fiction/ Young Adult
Author Website: Lauren DeStefano
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