Title: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 22nd 2011
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?
The second I opened Wither I was drawn into the story. From the first sentence, I got wide-eyed, nervous, and was asking, “What is going on!” I pulled Wither off my tbr bookshelf and started it without reading what it was about. I am pretty sure I read the jacket once upon a time but could not remember what this book would be about so I was surprised to find out what was happening. Wither was definitely different from what I have been reading lately.
In a time where the women die at 20 and men at 25, some people are desperate for a cure. Others have come to terms with the fact that this is the way things are now. The first generation must face the death of their children and for everyone else that has children their children will be left orphaned. The world has certainly changed and although their situation was not ideal, Rhine was content enough with her life just trying to survive with her brother Rowan. Now Rhine has been kidnapped and sold off to become a bride. A van full of young girls and only three were chosen for this new life. Their new home is spectacular, they are waited on by a full staff, their new husband is attentive, but real freedom is scarce. Each girls life has significantly improved when it comes to the lifestyle they live but for what they have lost these things are not worth it.
I loved getting to know the characters. The “sister wives” were so different. They each felt differently about their situation and faced it in their own way. The youngest, Cecily, enjoyed her new life. She was once an orphan and believed that this was the best thing that could have happened to her. She is excited to be a wife and determined to have children and get Linden’s attention. Jenna is the oldest and although she despises Linden and his father, she has decided to just live out her final year passively. She has already lost all she cares about and at the age of 19, she does not have much time left so she spends her time with her books and waits. Then there is Rhine. She is haunted by the other girls in the van that did not become brides. She wants to hate her husband Linden but he is much different than she had expected and after the loss of his first wife, his first love, she receives his favor. Rhine is hopeful that she can use Linden’s affection as a way to get out of her new home and back to her brother. She can pretend to reach her freedom but for how long will it remain just an act?
I enjoyed seeing the girls come together. Even with their differences, they had some great moments together. They truly were like sisters and at times, their bond was so strong. They had some beautiful moments. I liked getting to see Rhine’s interactions with Linden and trying to decipher how I felt about his character. Was he a horrible person? More to him then you would first think? Then there is Rhine’s relationship with Gabriel. It was subtle. They only had short moments together but you could feel the connection. I did want to know more about the virus and dig deeper into the creepiness of the housemaster. He was scary without knowing exactly what was going on down there but I really wanted to know what his plans are with Rhine. I enjoyed the flashbacks and how Rhine never fully gave in to her situation. I did feel like it was a little repetitive somehow and that more could have happened. I was expecting a nail biting ending but it was not as nerve wracking as I expected it to be. I am sure there will be plenty of time for that in the next you though.