Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

August 16, 2014 Review 0 ★★

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefanoWither by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on 2011 March 22
Genres: Dystopia
Pages: 358
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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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?

Below is a graphical representation of what I felt while reading Wither. While not a bad book, it’s not good either. It’s one of those books that you would only read just to kill time. It paced like a snail and as boring as a slug. I almost fell asleep from the monotonous atmosphere of this book. Sighs.

The first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Wither is a boring “THRILLING” dystopian novel set in a futuristic North America. It follows the story of 16-year old Rhine who was kidnapped and sold as a bride to a rich young House Governor, Linden Ashby.  Though Linden is a very kind husband, Rhine is still unhappy for she views her new home as a luxurious prison and she’s very worried about her twin brother.  It didn’t help that Linden’s father, Housemaster Vaughn, is hiding a lot of dark secrets which Rhine has discovered gradually while she’s pretending to be a dutiful wife to Linden.

Gaahh.  I actually fell in love with this book during the beginning but sadly it was determined to break free from the love that I am offering. Sure, the unique premise  was enough to draw me in.  And when the characters started talking, I know that Wither would be another dystopia that would leave a permanent mark in my heart. How wrong I was.  There were only four reasons why I persevered reading this book: 1. I am invested with the characters, 2. I love Lauren’s prose, 4. The polygamous culture of the citizens intrigued me and 4. I am stubborn and I won’t let a book defeat me.

Though Rhine Ellery is not your kickass heroine, I think you would still like her because she’s cunning and very stubborn in a passive way. I also loved that she never lost her focus in getting out from the Ashby’s mansion and that she never let herself be fooled by love. Though she was really confused with her feelings for Linden and Gabriel, she never let her heart rule her head.  She’s always alert and always spying on Vaughn. If she’s not spying, she’s looking out for the welfare of her sister wives and of Gabriel.

The other characters were fleshed out as well and it was really interesting to see how things would go between Rhine and the other two wives of Linden.  I predicted that I am going to hate Jenna and Cecily but once I got deeper into the story, I can’t help but like them too. Their relationship extended to more than competing wives… they became friends and sisters who were unfortunately married to the same man.  Even the male leads, Gabriel and Linden are adorable and please note that none of them is wearing the bad boy cloak… a rarity in novel nowadays because let’s face it, if there’s a love triangle, the other male lead is bound to be the baddie.

The antagonist, Vaughn, was also brought to life. Though I haven’t seen his full powers, he managed to give me the creeps with this subtlety and shrewdness.

Though Wither is heavily focused on polygamous marriages, I was surprised to find out that there’s so little romance in it.  Even at the end, it still wasn’t clear whether Rhine’s attraction for Gabriel has turned into love.  Even the love triangle was almost insubstantial so if you have an aversion against geometrical romances, then worry not because this book wouldn’t give you a trigonometric headache.

Wither has been an almost perfect read if not for its very slow moving plot. How would I describe it? Long winded? Verbose? Predictable? Lots of pages were dedicated to Rhines’ repetitive thoughts of her dead parents, her brother and other mundane things.  Apart from Rhine being kidnapped and Jenna and Rose’s death, there’s nothing really going on in here. The villain didn’t even make his wicked move which made me think that all his rumoured evil deeds are just a ploy to put some tension in this book.  It’s like DeStefano wrote Wither to prepare the stage for the second book.  It’s like we’re just moving around in circles trying to figure out what we should do with our lives.  The action and gory scenes that I anticipated didn’t also materialize. I even started to question myself if the blurb was wrong to label this as dsytopia. Because if you ask me, I’ll just label this as sci-fi.  I haven’t seen any worldwide misery or the government being in total control.

Almost all of the scenes in this book are set inside the mansion and I never got to experience the real dystopian world that Lauren is trying to create. Even the polygamous marriage has lost its novelty because it’s not really new to me.  Here in the Philipines, we’ve got tribes that practice polygamy.  And what I am interested in Wither is how Lauren would portray such practice in a dystopian setting. Apparently, she failed. Even some of my questions were left unanswered but I could forgive that since there’s still books 2 and 3.

To conclude, I didn’t hate this book. As a matter of fact, I’ve already decided to continue with the series just to know what will happen to the characters. I just hope that in the next book, DeStefano has enough money to buy a car and have the plot moving faster. Wither’s slowness compels me to think that DeStefano is just dragging things to have an excuse to make this book a trilogy.


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