By: Lauren DeStefano
Review by: Kaede
Release Date: March 22nd, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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?When I started WITHER, I'm not quite certain what I expected from it. But it certainly wasn't what I got, although I couldn't be more pleased.
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?
Captivating me with it's writing style from the very beginning, it was almost like there was a certain ease for me when it came to reading WITHER. Flipping pages after pages without the thought of putting it down was natural, and it had me wanting to stay up late to finishing it. Now for me, that is the markings of a good book.
I found that I felt something different for a lot of the characters we meet in WITHER. While I'm not sure if I connected with Rhine to the extent that I have with some other heroines, her narrative was one I enjoyed. I liked Rhine because she was strong and felt real to me. Trapped in a pretty prison, Rhine is determined to escape, find her brother, and return to the life she was forcefully taken from. But will there be some things not worth forsaking for a chance at freedom? Linden was a bit of a difficult character for me to place my feelings on, because in one sense I did like him, but in another I really hated him. Hated him for being able to be so blissfully naive and ignorant of the world outside when so many people - Rhine included - don't have that opportunity. But also like Rhine, I couldn't bring myself to ever fully hate him completely, or really at all...too much, and found that maybe I did like Linden. Although I couldn't stop the voice in the back of my head that hoped that somebody would tell Linden everything that his father had done. Anybody?
Rhine's relationship with her sister wives was something I liked seeing, because the contrast in all three of them was so apparent. Their views differed, and yet they were still able to form a connection. Cecily was my least favorite of the three because there were times where she really annoyed me, but I could understand where she was coming from. Cecily is the youngest, a bit of a dreamer, and believes the mansion is a place she can be happy, especially considering that she has everything now when she had nothing before.
Vaughn was a slightly disturbing character, because of all the things he did without so much of a second thought. I think he's the type of person that if I knew him in real life, every time he enters the same room, I'd run out because...well...uhm...I like to live?
All in all, I think you can definitely tell the characters and their relationships were my favorite part of WITHER. From Gabriel to Jenna, there was something interesting about each individual we meet in the story. DeStefano was also able to create Rowan, a character we don't know officially, but is described by Rhine to the point where I can have such a clear view of him that it's almost like he was present in the story the whole time.
The world building aspect was satisfying, but it definitely isn't this series's strong point. I know that there are a lot of readers who consider the world building weak, but personally I've never really saw detailed, plausible world building as a requirement for a enjoyable dystopian. It's nice to have certainly, but if there are other elements I enjoyed, and the world seems possible, then it's good enough for me most of the time, which worked in WITHER's favor.
Essentially, Lauren DeStefano's writing is not only simply solid, but comes so naturally you can't help but be pulled in. If you can put aside the fact that you probably won't find one of the most layered and complex worlds in young adult dystopian, I think there is a very good chance you'll really like WITHER. I mean, honestly, there had to be something special about it if I was so insistent on finishing it in one night, even though I had two exams the next day and I barely had enough time to study because I was reading.
If anything, Lauren DeStefano is the type of author that I feel will only get better and better, and so I will definitely read every book she comes out with from here on with confidence that they'll be amazing.
4 coffee cups!