I started Wither fairly certain that I'd not like it. Please don't misunderstand — I never start a book thinking I'll dislike it, but choose3.5 stars
I started Wither fairly certain that I'd not like it. Please don't misunderstand — I never start a book thinking I'll dislike it, but choose to read it anyway for some reason; I usually avoid books that sound as if I'd be disappointed by them. In the case of Wither, I'd decided to steer clear of it because of negative reviews and because of some of the content it is said to have. And while there were things I was bothered by and things I wish could've been different, I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
DeStefano paints a bleak portrait of the future in her 2011 debut, Wither. Scientists were able to concoct a cure for cancer and other fatal diseases, flus and colds, and sexually transmitted diseases; consequently giving humans much longer lives. But as good as this prospect may sound, it comes at a terrible price: the offspring of those who partook of the scientists' panacea only live a fraction of the time people do today. With women living only to the age of twenty and men the age of twenty-five, the only way to prevent the extinction of the human race is for young women to dedicate their lives to polygamous marriages and having as many children as possible in the short window of time they have. This is exactly the kind of life sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery wants to avoid in favor of living out her last four years with her brother, Rowan, whom she loves dearly. But when the Gatherers take her she is helpless. Soon she is married to Linden Ashby, along with two other girls, Jenna and Cecily. It isn't long before one of her sister wives, as they are so dubbed, is swelling with Linden's child and Rhine is having to pretend that she herself loves him. But Rhine soon bonds with a young male servant named Gabriel and starts to plot a way to escape this compulsory life, and hopes to take him with her. But there are many dangers in attempting an escape, and it may end in both of their deaths.
Wither is one of the most hyped YA dystopias released in the last few years, and I can see why: it's content is controversial, it contains many things which could (and did for me) repulse its reader, and, of course, since a little series called the Hunger Games came along, the dystopian genre has skyrocketed to the top spot on many reader's favorites list. (I think it's even surpassed the paranormal genre now. What a feat!)
Rhine's helplessness really struck a chord within me. I can't imagine having lost your parents, and then being dragged away from your brother, the only person you have left, to be forced into a marriage with someone you don't even know. Gabriel, although a character that wasn't in the story nearly as much as I'd have liked, was something special. He is the reason I'm most looking forward to the sequal. The writing has a quality that I wouldn't normally expect from a debut author, but I'd heard may good things about DeStefano's writing before starting Wither, and they were all true.
And now for the negative: The science in Wither seems a little off to me. This, along with one other key point I'll mention later, is what keeps me from giving this four stars. Here is my logic: If the government (or scientists) were ever able to produce a cure for potentially fatal diseases like cancer and whatnot, should it backfire and cause a sort of self-destruct effect in the children of the people who use it, as it is said to in DeStefano's world, wouldn't the government then be able to stop it almost immediately? Eradicate the problem, or at least come up with some sort of drug to lengthen the lifespans of those who are affected by it? Think about it: Whatever could stop fatal diseases as harsh as cancer, if such a thing exists, would be very hard to find (obviously, since this is the twenty-first century and we're still using chemo, which is horrible in itself); and I would think that if scientists were ever smart enough to find it, they'd be able to deal with any repercussions that may arrise after the fact; I especially don't see them ever lying down and just saying, Oh, well — I guess we'll just have to live with the fact that none of us will make it to thirty and that the human race could easily become extinct in the next decade. Perhaps it is just me, but the science seemed rather warped and uncalculated. For my other qualm, read the spoiler if you don't mind being spoiled. (view spoiler)[The youngest of the three wives, Cecily, is thirteen at the start of the novel. She is soon impregnated by twenty-one-year-old Linden, who apparently is no less attracted to her than the eighteen-year-old Jenna or sixteen-year-old Rhine. This was sickening to me, and I wish the author would've handled this differently. The author could've easily kept the three wives sixteen or older and still conveyed the severity of the characters' situation in the harsh reality they live in without using a thirteen-year-old child. At least, IMHO. (hide spoiler)] Other than these two points, I really have no complaints; I enjoyed the writing and characterization just fine. And I am certainly invested enough to read Fever in the near future, and, if Fever doesn't disappoint, the trilogy's finale, Untitled.
Notice: Although the back of the audio says it's for readers thirteen and up, I'd recommend this book for fifteen and up. The rather mature subject matter and some of the content seems more appropriate for an older audience IMO....more