Rummanah Aasi
 I have been eagerly anticipating for Lauren DeStefano's YA debut, Wither, ever since my fellow book buddy, Leanne, told me about it. Be prepared to hear and read lots of reviews of this book because it has been on many reader's list of books that are highly anticipated for 2011.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster, I was able to get an advanced reader's copy of the book in order to give you all an honest review.

Description: A generation of "perfectly engineered" embryos, known as the First Generation, has been watching its children die off from a virus that claims females at age 20 and males at age 25. Girls are kidnapped for brothels or polygamous marriages for the sole purpose of breeding children.

Review: Wither is an enthralling read that sucks you in its very first pages. The book is told in the present tense by 16 year old Rhine who is kidnapped and forced into a polygamous marriage with Linden Ashby. DeStefano's world shares many characteristics with Margaret Atwood's groundbreaking novel, A Handmaid's Tale, where females are solely used for their body, but it also seems to have a connection with HBO's critically acclaimed TV show "Big Love".
  Unlike Atwood's novel, DeStefano presents a world that constantly challenges our sensibilities of its restraints. Rhine is taken from her hard, impoverish life and sold with two other girls to Linden Ashby. Though the girls live in a lavish, palatial Florida home that is surrounded by gardens and are treated like royalty, they are sequestered from the outside world. Rhine desires her freedom and wants to escape and reunite with her twin brother, the sole member of her family. Leaving, however, is not easy as Rhine begins to grow bonds with her sister wives, feels pity for her husband,  Linden, and her fear of Housemaster Vaughn, Linden’s manipulative father. She also begins to fall for a servant named Gabriel.
  Wither is a character-driven dystopian novel that makes us think rather than spike our adrenaline like Collins' blockbuster Hunger Games series. Rhine is a determined, strong yet vulnerable heroine and appropriately named. She spends little time wallowing in her situation. Like her namesake, she is constantly planning on creating a plan to runaway and seek freedom. Whenever she seems to get accustom to her luxurious life, reminds herself why she wants to escape. Rhine's sisterwives, Cecily and Jenna, are also well depicted. Cecily immediately comes off as a spoil brat who craves attention and doesn't seem bothered by her situation. Jenna, on the other hand, is quiet, smart, and vigilant. All three girls use their feminine wiles to manipulate their husband into doing things in their favor and possibly gaining their freedom and/or power, which reminded me a lot of the power struggle between Anne Boylen and Henry VIII in The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory.
  Linden is by far the most interest characters out of the bunch. He is a walking contradiction that challenges our emotions. He, like his wives, are also trapped into his status quo and controlled by his creepy, authoritarian father. We tend to feel sorry for Linden but we can't help but remember that he is also the captor of our heroines. Gabriel, Rhine's love interest, has a fleeting appearance and his relationship with Rhine is underdeveloped.
    The pace of the book is deliberately slow, as the characters try to get a feel of their setting. The theme of uncertainty flows throughout the entire book and almost becomes a character itself. We are not told what happens outside of the Ashbury mansion thus horrifying and disturbing us to believe that the girls are better off in their present situation. I would have liked more of back story of how the virus came to be as well as a flushed out world building that at first glance seems to have holes. I felt the ending was a bit rushed compared to its overall languid plot. Addressing social issues would also have been welcoming too. I hope these issues are dealt with in the next two installments of the series. DeStefano writes very well and I'm vested enough its characters to want to learn more.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and allusions to sex. Due to its mature themes, I would recommend the book to ages 14 and up.

If you like this book try: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Matched by Ally Condie, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, or The Other Boylen Girl by Phillipa Gregory.
8 Responses
  1. Daisy Says:

    I'm also looking forward to learning more about the world and the virus (enter my geeky med-student self :))! And I agree the relationship between Rhine and Gabriel needs some developing. I feel more gushy about it than you did, I hope the next one will make you fall in love with the series!

  2. Yea!! I am reading this right now, and I want to SMACK Cecily! I know her situation is scary, but truly, she's just not a very nice person. And LINDEN - creeps my out big time!

    Love your detailed reviews!

  3. Linds: Thanks! Cecily irritated the hell out of me too, especially in the end. I loved Jenna though. Linden is very...odd and he's his dad's puppet. Looking forward to reading your review!

  4. Jenny Says:

    We had very similar thoughts on this one Rummanah! I adored Rhine and I found Linden to be fascinating, definitely the most interesting character just like you said. I'm definitely looking forward to more of this world and I hope we get some more answers about the virus in future books!

  5. I didn't know what to think of Linden either, but I loved this book to pieces.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  6. I definitely saw the Handmaid's Tale in this book. I liked at pitied Linden. Rhine leaving would break his heart all over again. I'm glad other people also thought the romance was underdone.

  7. Jenny: Me too! I was a bit curious as to why the cut of age is in the mid-20s. I hope we get more answers in the future books.

    Brandi: There were times when I felt bad for Linden and there were other times when I wanted to smack him for being so naive and robotic.

    Alison: It's disturbing as Handmaid's Tale, but it's not so much "in your face" about it. As I said, the girls live a comfortable life in the mansion and to think they are better off living in a sequestered life is what really creeps me out.

  8. Luxembourg Says:

    The only small negative I could mention on that front is her lack of characterization of Rowan, Rhine's fraternal twin brother. All we know of him are things Rhine tells us. We don't view him in dialogue in her memories and I felt that caused me to care less about him to the point that I questioned at some places Rhine's dire need to get away from the mansion and her husband. Though, all in all, this is a very minor detail because, like the house staff, I felt Rhine was such a sweet spirit that she should have whatever she wanted.

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