Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: Wither

WITHER (The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1)
Lauren DeStefano
Young Adult
358 Page
Simon & Schuster
Available March 22nd
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY
Rhine is going to die in four years. Her death will come at age twenty along with every other woman, just as every young man will pass at age twenty-five due to a virus infecting the younger generations. Her body will give out slowly and inexorably not long after her birthday.

In order to keep the human population from dying out, young woman are constantly kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages, expected to produce children at young ages and do their part for the perpetuation of society. Rhine has seen the Gatherers brutally collecting girls, and she figures as long as she's careful, she will never be one of them.

Unfortunately, even with her twin brother Rowan looking out for her, Rhine finds herself at the regal home of Linden Ashby, standing before him as his one of his three wives. Initially consumed with only thoughts of escape, Rhine soon finds some semblance of home with her sister wives, Linden, and a servant named Gabriel, but she never forgets how she came to be there in the first place and what will happen to her if she doesn't adequately fulfill her role as a woman and wife.

MY THOUGHTS
Darkly fascinating and exquisitely grim, Wither introduces us to a bleak future where human lives are horrifically truncated, and with the reduction in lifespan comes the deterioration of morality and ethics. Human trafficking has become a premium, and the goodness and light of humanity is rapidly shriveling along with the cells of the body infected by the virus, leaving behind the brutality, the lies, and the grievous deeds conducted in name of survival and finding an antidote. In the sprawling mansion that has become Rhine's gilded cage, she and her fellow sister wives are no longer individuals with hearts, souls, and emotions but rather are strands of DNA and the carriers of future children who represent possible genetic salvation to Linden's father and resident housemaster Vaughn. We can't help but sit motionless, riveted to a story with dynamic characters, monstrous secrets, and a very uncertain future.

Smart and cunning, Rhine is a young woman who wastes little time wallowing in useless self-pity, instead constantly planning and plotting a possible escape from a dire situation dressed up in opulent surroundings and glittering clothing. She conducts herself in a manner that earns our respect and admiration, refusing to be cajoled into certain compromising situations despite the role she's playing, and maintaining an independence when she easily could have become a numbered wife–a nameless, faceless, husk of a woman who's relinquished all hope along with the control of her body. As intriguing as Rhine herself are the intricate relationships formed between her and her sister wives, each individual harboring secrets of her own, willing to share only what she wants known while keeping the most vital information close to the chest. Cecily and Jenna are both beautifully depicted, each understanding there is a subtle art to surviving their circumstances and they wield their separate paintbrushes with a cleverness and aptitude that makes the creative dance between all three young women an enthralling thing to read.

Linden is a fascinating character in his own right, a man who keeps our emotions constantly shifting between affection and resentment as his role in Rhine's predicament is kept deliberately ambiguous. At times, his seeming kindness and vulnerability slip past our defensive walls and we begin to warm to him, only to remember what brought the women to his home in the first place, just as Rhine continues to remember, and both her and our impenetrable shields snap back into place. He is both innocent and guilty, victim and villain, and kind husband and captor, so adept at maintaining his guileless facade we struggle to decipher if it's the truth or yet another illusion in a house full of false freedom, simulated marriage, and pretend emotional connections.

The one drawback of this unique tale is a lack of history regarding the virus and the unfathomable evolutionary retrogression. For such a profound turn of events for all humanity, a little more information on the cause of the virus and its initial discovery would have been welcome. We attend a variety of parties and public functions along with Rhine as she executes her role as first wife with a flawless grace, and while one such event would have sufficed for us to understand Rhine's augmenting position within the marriage's social structure, we are subjected to several more–somewhat unnecessary deviations where the page time might have been better spent illuminating the world a bit more. Overall, however, Wither is a highly enjoyable read and Ms. DeStefano has created a spectacular array of memorable characters who keep us constantly on our toes, thinking and wondering as to what's in their minds and hearts as they all attempt to live in the face of certain death.

Rating: 4/5

43 comments:

  1. What did you think about the romance with Gabriel? I thought the relationship fell a little flat. It was my main problem with Wither. I felt like I knew Linden better than Gabriel. It bothered me at first that this book just seemed to end, but then I saw that there are going to be more books. It was a little dark for my taste, but I am interested enough to keep going. It was an engrossing tale.

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  2. I have been hearing mixed reviews of Wither. I am still not sure whether I want to read it.Wonderful review though! The book seems be very intriguing!

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  3. I didn't know how I quite felt about Gabriel. I kinda liked Linden better, but there's still more to the story, thank god! It was amazing though. XD

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  4. I know I'm going to read this one no matter what since I have a review copy, but I keep crossing my fingers every time I see a review...hoping that it's good. Wither is probably one of my most looked-forward to books this year! Glad you enjoyed it, Jenny!

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  5. Alison - Gabriel was not my favorite, I found him a bit forgettable (hence he's not even mentioned in my review), but I was so interested in everything else that it didn't detract overall for me!

    Misha - There's definitely mixed thoughts on this one, but I loved the uniqueness of it and I really enjoyed Rhine and her relationship to the other two girls and Linden.

    Mariya - I'm not sold on him either, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in book 2!

    Natalie - I'll be excited to see what you think of it! It just had such a different feel from a lot of the YA I'd been reading, and I liked the uniqueness of it:)

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  6. Great review, Jenny. I keep seeing mixed reviews for this one and still can't figure out whether I want to read it or not. I know you liked it but from the few dystopians I've read, it's not really a genre that appeals to me for some reason. So, when the story involves things like viruses and the history for how that comes about isn't clear, it doesn't really help.

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  7. Great review Jenny! I adored this book. I think you are right about the history of it. I was thinking we may learn more about it in the second book.

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  8. I loved this book - so glad I got the chance to read it before it's released, as I just couldn't bear waiting. But! I hear several stores have already released this book slightly early... so perhaps people don't have so long to wait after all.

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  9. Great review Jenny. I wasn't so much of a fan of this book. I felt the writing was good but I didn't really like the world.

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  10. Yeah, I just finished this one and am having a bit of a struggle coming up with a review. I loved it, but there was just something off - and maybe it was like you said, the world-building wasn't quite there.

    Great review!

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  11. Great review! It annoys me sometimes when a book lacks the history that you think is needed. Great review! I'm going to try and get to this one this week!

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  12. Awesome review! I loved the book and how in depth the girls characters were, but am really hoping to get to know the boys a lot better in the sequel. Like Alison said, the romance with Gabriel felt flat.
    NC
    Truly Bookish

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  13. Thanks for the review Jenny !! I have this book on NetGalley and I really want to read it .. but I prefer waiting for a copy of the book if it's as good as I've heard =) !!

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  14. Excellent review! I am really looking forward to reading this one. It sounds amazing. I don't think I've read a single bad review for it yet.

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  15. Zahida - I'm a big fan of dystopian novels, so while I wished there was more history, I was still able to enjoy it without it. If you're not a huge fan of the genre, it's probably not for you!

    Savy - I hope we get more in the second book!

    Madigan - I really enjoyed it too, all the characters were like a puzzle I couldn't quite figure out and I liked that about it:)

    Nic - Definitely not for everyone!

    Rachel - I felt the same, I just wanted a little more history so I could better understand how we got to kidnapping and polygamy:)

    Jacinda - Looking forward to your thoughts on it:)

    NC - Agreed on Gabriel, I expected him to be a bigger role. I actually found myself leaning toward Linden!

    Elodie - Hope you get a chance to read it soon, I love reading everyone's thoughts on a book that seems to inspire a lot of different opinions:)

    Slowest - I was impressed with it!

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  16. I'm torn when it comes to WITHER. It sounds like a great dystopian and a thought provoking read, but I'm a bit uncomfortable with the girls being forced into marriage and a sexual relationship.

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  17. I definitely struggled with Linden's character - one minute I hated him and the next I found myself feeling sorry for him. Wither definitely put me on an emotional roller coaster and I am anxious to see how the series continues. Perhaps more info will be revealed about how the virus came about in the coming books? Lovely review Jenny!

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  18. I can't wait to read this one! I just realized I only have 8 days left to read it from the S&S Galley Grab! Gah! I better get on it. I need to mix in some adult titles with the YA's I've been reading though. I've been getting frustrated with several of YA characters lately and need a break!

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  19. This one isn't on my list but I do love that there are so many differing opinions on the book. I actually think that makes the book more intriguing and I am glad so many people are reading it:)

    I do love the cover!

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  20. Im glad you liked it...I liked this too, the only problems I really had with it was of course the forced polygamy and the 13 yr old bride...(ick) I thought the writing though was really great.

    Awesome review as usual!

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  21. Jennifer - One thing I really liked about Rhine is she didn't ever let herself be forced to do anything, so while she had no choice in the marriage, she does choose not to sleep with Linden and he doesn't force the issue.

    Tara - Exactly! I would warm up to him for a minute and then he'd do something and I'd be not a fan of him again. I look forward to seeing where it goes in the next book after the way things ended:)

    Mollie - Can't wait to see what you think!

    Felicia - I really like that the opinions are varied on this one as well, it definitely makes things interesting:)

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  22. Tina - Yeah, Cecily was a bit problematic but I tried to think of it not so much in terms of age, but more in the context of their world. Age 13 when you only live to be 20 I think is a different situation than being age 13 now, so that reduced the creepiness level for me a bit, though it was still disturbing (intentionally so I think:)

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  23. Wonderful review, Jenny. I'm reading this right now, and so far, I am agreeing with everything you've said. I will say that, even considering her circumstances, I am finding it very difficult to like Cecily. I feel bad for her, but I find her to be an extreme brat! Love Rhine, though, and Jenna!

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  24. Lets hope that they give more information in the sequal. ;) I keep reading mixed reviews about this, so I'm really looking forward reading it for myself and I do hope I will LOVE it. ;)

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  25. I read this one recently and loved it. The book is not even released yet and I'm already pining for the second book. Hopefully we'll get more about the virus in the second book.

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  26. Wow! This sounds incredible. I am so glad I picked this book up this weekend when I was at B&N. I love the premise of Wither; it sounds so unique. I hate when a book doesn't give the readers enough background. I feel like a lot of YA literature has been guilty of this lately. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall though!

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  27. I agree with your review, Jenny. I had the same problem with the underdeveloped world building as well as the flat love story featuring Rhine and Gabrielle. Did you think the ending was a bit rushed?

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  28. You hit the nail. I know I would have appreciated less parties and more explanation.

    Delicious review, Jenny. Fun to read as always!

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  29. Linds - Cecily is a tricky one to figure out, I didn't like her much until the end and then I just felt sorry for her. I liked that I wasn't quite sure how I felt about a lot of the characters other than Rhine, it added an uneasiness to the story that made things interesting.

    Nina - I'm hoping we are! Whenever there's a big change from the world I know I like a little explanation as to how we got there:)

    Jenny - I'm very ready for book 2 as well, I'm not a patient person when it comes to books.

    Christina - It's very unique, that's what I liked so much about it. There were some drawbacks, but there always are, overall I really enjoyed it!

    Rummanah - I'm hoping there will be more Gabriel/Rhine in book 2, I wasn't fully convinced of their relationship in this one. Yes, I think the ending was a bit hurried, but it didn't bother me too much.

    Missie - Yep, I was fine with one or even 2 parties, but I didn't need three:)

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  30. I really want to read this one. Yes I like dystopian but this one, that they die and all just makes it so interesting

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  31. This one is definitely getting a mix of reviews. I received this one electronically from the publisher and have been scrambling to read it. I love the cover and the opening. I'm glad to hear you liked it. If I don't finish it in time, I'm probably going to purchase it. I just finished reading Birthmarked. It sounds similiar with the DNA and the virus. Although in that book it's hemophilia. I like that the characters are fascinating and the book keeps you on your toes! Fab review.

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  32. Jenny- You know your right...thinking about the age thing and putting it into the context of culture I can see how this could happen. I know in a lot of cultures way back when and maybe even some today marry off their daughters at very young ages. Goodness there was a time when daughters were sold to men their fathers picked. Thank goodness my dad didnt pick my husband- I would of wound up with a dork!!

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  33. I wasn't able to get past the fact that Cecily was only 13. It colored my perception of Linden and it made me unable to like him. I think I was utterly influenced by the scene after which it becomes clear that she and Linden have consummated their marriage. Even though Cecily was closer to the end of her life than the beginning, that scene made it clear to me that Linden had no business sleeping with her, and that whatever her physical age, she wasn't emotionally ready. That was pretty much how I read her character all the way through the book.

    I also didn't much care for the relationship between Gabriel and Rhine. I think she deserves someone a little more interesting.

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  34. OH what a wonderful review. I am so looking forward to reading this one. It's on my tbr and I should be getting to it soon. Can't wait even more now! I will remember there is not as much information than we would like. Perhaps that may make it not bug me as much. Hm..

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  35. I was really excited for this book but then I hadn't heard the greatest of things about it, so I was worried... But your review?!? Totally relieved that anxiety- it sounds really great!
    Thanks a bunch Jenny!
    ;)

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  36. Blodeuedd - I thought it was a really fascinating read, the idea of the virus and what the threat of living to age twenty or twenty-five would do to people's way of thinking kept me interested:)

    Julie - I love that this one is inspiring so many different opinions, keeps things interesting:)

    Tina - Oh my gosh I can't even imagine having my dad pick someone for me to marry and me having no say in the matter! And possibly having been given to a husband at such a young age *shudders*. I like to think my dad would have had good taste, but who knows;)

    Ruby - I agree, Cecily's excitement over having sex and getting pregnant was disturbing, but I think it was meant to be that way. And it did bother me that Linden was willing to sleep with her, but then I kept thinking what he was led to believe about the three girls and how they came to be there, and I wasn't so upset at him. He was hard for me to peg, sometimes he pissed me off, and sometimes I warmed to him:)

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  37. Great review Jenny! but, Im not sure if I'll read this one yet =/

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  38. Hi,

    I'm Kate Evangelista, author of Taste, and I just wanted to take this time to introduce myself. If you have the time, please stop by The Coffee Bar by using the link below:

    http://kateevangelistanovels.blogspot.com/

    I hope to see you there.

    Sincerely,
    Kate

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  39. I'm SO with you on this, Jenny! You said it much better than me (your reviews are so eloquent!) but I felt that the only drawback was the assumption we'd go along with the story sans background on the virus. I hope we know more with book two! Awesome review!

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  40. Larissa - It's not for everyone, but I liked it:)

    Kate - Thanks for visiting!

    Melissa - Thank you:) I'm excited for book 2, I'm wondering how/if she's going to split things between Rhine and Gabriel and then Linden:)

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  41. This books sounds so very interesting and it has gotten rave reviews. I know that when you talk highly of a book, I will surely enjoy it!

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  42. Reading this one now. I agree about the lack of background information with regards to the virus. I keep thinking, "Well maybe we will learn more, I just haven't reached that point in the book yet." Though now I know from your review that we'll never get to know more information. At least not in the first book of the trilogy. Disappointing, but overall I'm loving it too :)

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  43. I loved the book... There were flaws but the beautiful writing style sort of made up for it. As for the 'love' bit, it did fall flat in my opinion.

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