Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano


"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. " GOODREADS

Rhine's story begins in darkness. From the darkness comes a rebirth into a new world . A world she knows, one she has seen on television , and even speculated on. Now it is her life and her trap. She lives in a gilded cage, trying to resist it's lures by holding the memories of her freedom and her brother close to her heart.
I'm really conflicted about this Novel. There was much I enjoyed but many things were left unexplained and didn't really fit with the world DeStefano is attempting to create. I'm aware that this is a trilogy so there is a strong possibility that more will be revealed in future volumes but I still had some issues.
For a debut Author Lauren has created a wonderful  character  in Rhine.  Her entire world is revealed to us through the narrative. At 16 Rhine is in the latter years of her life. She has four more years before she will manifest the virus that will kill her. There is a strength in Rhine that serves her well. Captured by a group of Gatherers, she is singled out by a rich young man, Linden with two other women: Jenna who is 18 and Cecily, barely 14. The three are married to Linden and begin their lives as sister wives. 
From the time they enter Linden's home the entire focus of the novel  centers around the daily lives of the wives. Linden is still reeling from the loss of his first love and wife Rose. When Rhine rejects his physical attentions the two still develop a strong relationship, bound together by their mutual grief. Rhine also starts  a friendship with Gabriel a house servant whose job is to serve the wives. With Gabriel Rhine can express emotions and even romance. She also has an attraction to Linden but her anger over her captivity won't let her give into the possibility. We really get a sense of the suffocation and control that makes up the girls lives. I admired Rhine's strength to still plot for escape.
In the months that follow Rhine's world revolves around the library and the companionship of her sister wives. The conversations they share illuminate us to the state of the world.  That's where the problems began for me.
First of all there is no clear sense of who is in charge in this new world. According to Rhine the southern parts of the world have been completely destroyed. It would stand to reason that supplies would then be scarce. So why then is this entire culture focused on procreation when resources are so limited?
I also had a problem with the usage of women in this society. We hear from Rhine's narrative that there are countless starving children boys and girls. Some are lucky enough to be in orphanages where they are trained and then possibly sold as servants or wives. This is how Cecily became Linden's wife. Why then would Gatherer's need to abduct  girls? You would think that there would be thousands of starving girls who would volunteer to be wives. Also why are women deemed "unworthy" murdered or forced into prostitution?
I could understand the world returning to a possible feudal state where woman had no rights or were married to obtain their properties but the forced polygamy doesn't make sense to me.
I was still drawn into the events in Linden's household though, mostly due to Lauren's writing skill. I think these contradictions stood out  so much because I  developed such a strong connection with the character. Hence her vacillations and lamenting over her choices really resonated with me.
 As the book drew towards its resolution I wondered about Rhine's choice. Would she risk her life for freedom? Or finally become a perfect caged flower. I was really looking forward to the ending, but what happens was extremely  anticlimactic, and  left me unsatisfied. Without spoiling too much, I was irritated that after all her planning and heartache Rhine would take an action so woefully unprepared!
Again there is a lot of promise in this novel, and I would definitely give the second book in the series a try.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to review this book through their
E-Galley Grab program.




The Lovely Getaway said...

i can see your point of view when it comes to the question, "who's in charge?". that was a question that constantly popped into my head as I was reading Whiter, but I still enjoyed it very much. I got lost in the story and almost finished it in one-sitting :) like you, i'll be on the look out for book 2, i want to know what happens with Rhine & Gabriel! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Sara said...

I had problems with the dystopia and the book was odd. I liked it though.


Thanks for your comments ladies:)

Anonymous said...

I am really liking dystopian books and Wither is for sure one of my favorites. I like that you had a different take on it though. You made me think even deeper about the story. I actually feel like that is part of what makes dystopian so good.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I have this book in my TBR stack and am looking forward to getting to it! Loved your review and the different ideas you have about this book! By the way - check out your Sunday Serenade today!