Megan's Reviews > Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
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's review
Apr 20, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: audio-book, not-mine-library, young-adult, dystopian
Read from April 13 to 19, 2012

Due to the large amount of reviews complaining of the lack of world building, I went into Wither expecting to be disappointed. And I pretty much was, until it occurred to me that I was approaching this book in the wrong way. As a dystopian it is a complete fail. Then it occurred to me how much Rhine's situation and constant literary fictiony musing reminded me of gothic novels. And, as a pseudo-gothic thriller it works. But, of course, it's marketed as a dystopian and on that note...

As everyone has said, world building sucks. Of course we know that scientists have cured the big diseases such as cancer, std's, aids, the common cold... But what about the diseases and conditions which are actually responsible for so very many deaths? Diseases such as congestive heart failure? Diabetes? Stroke? Heart attack? Recurrent urinary tract infections in the elderly? Pneumonia in the elderly? Chronic respiratory illness? Bacteria which is resistant to the strongest antibiotics? Viruses for which there is no antiviral medication? What about the little things which actually cause bigger things, such as obesity? Hypertension? Coronary artery disease? What about congenital heart defects? Or other congenital illnesses? What about the oddball diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease? Scleroderma? Multiple sclerosis? Ah, well... that shit has been cured! (Apparently) The catch? The offspring of these super humans die of a 'virus' at a ridiculously young age, 20 for females and 25 for males. Why, oh why the age disparity? Especially since in a normal lifespan women tend to live longer than men? And why, how is it possible that a 'switch' of sorts is turned on? Ah, cruel world, it is the eve of my twentieth birthday and I am suddenly coughing up blood! Really?

Again, I am loaded with questions. Basically, the teenagers we meet in this story are just about as well behaved as any teenager. But, in a scenario in which their lives are ended so soon... why isn't there a rash of teens gone wild? We all remember being a kid and wanting so badly to be grown up. In a situation when there really isn't a grown up life to look forward to, why aren't more kids stepping out on their own and taking control of their short lives? Wouldn't there be super productive teens? Teens behaving badly? Ah, I don't know.

So, Rhine’s worst fears are realized when she and a few other girls are kidnapped and forced to be baby producing brides. Yet… there is no forcing being done. (view spoiler) In fact, Rhine now has a comfy house, gardens, library , servants and excellent food at her disposal. Sure, she was stolen from her brother. But her imprisonment is pretty tame.

Again with the questions. Rhine fears being kidnapped. Understandably. But one of her ‘Sister-wives’ has only known the life of an orphan, so she feels pretty lucky to have been chosen. We also know there are lots of orphans so… why do girls have to be stolen? Wouldn’t the hordes of orphaned, impoverished girls be lining up to volunteer to be a kept woman in a lavish mansion? And who is this governor anyway? What are this world’s politics? Who are its leaders? How likely that a governor in Florida traveled to New York to capture little Rhine?

Again, as a dystopian this is a big, big fail. Simply not enough thought was put into Wither to the point that in addition to the world building being scant, what we have doesn’t even make sense. Another fail was the research put into the book. The majority of the novel takes place in Florida, yet Rhine endures multiple snowstorms and even a blizzard. In Florida! In a home surrounded by orange groves. Orange groves which would never, ever survive a cold snap strong enough to produce a blizzard. (And, yet again, we are left to wonder why on earth snow is a regular occurrence in Florida. And how the orange trees can with stand such extreme cold. ) Rhine is somehow magically able to not only blush on command, but control her blushing. (Yeah, people can’t do that. It’s physiology. You just can’t) Furthermore, when the youngest Sister-wife is in labor the governor jabs her in the spine with a needle. Ugh… Epidurals are an incredibly delicate thing. They have to be done with such precision, and by someone who is correctly trained. I don’t care how medically advanced a society is, there is no way, I repeat no way that an epidural can ever be done so casually. And without sterile procedure. *shudder*

But, as so many have said, these are Wither’s weakest points. Getting past the constant repetition of events and ideas, getting past the poor science and the inexplicable world is the hard part. Once there, though… and the story isn’t bad. IMO it isn’t really ready for publication in its current state. (Yeah, who am I to say that? Lots of people love this one!) Had medical mistakes been corrected, a little world building added, and the repetition taken out, this would have been such a good story. I may continue with this series when my library gets the audio version of the remaining books. And I’ll just try to fool myself into believing that rather than a futuristic dystopian, this is actually a gothic thriller about a slightly hysterical girl.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Dominika (new)

Dominika Great review! And it absolutely shows that you are a nurse ;) I'm still not sure whether to read this one or not..

Megan Haha it was painful writing out all those medical conditions and not simply using abbreviations like I normally do! =) I was really bored through most of this, it took a very long time for me to become invested in the characters and care about them. And even now, can't say that I truly care about the characters but I am interested in where DeStefano is headed with this series. If you read this one, try to make it a loaner ~ it's not really good enough to warrant spending money on it.

message 3: by Dominika (new)

Dominika Eh, that's the worst part - I have yet to find a library with this kind of books in Seoul.. I don't mind spending a small fortune on books, but I do mind spending it on books that leave me unsatisfied... so I guess I'll have to find another way to get it ;]

Tatiana Well, Megan, this was a very generous rating. I heard Fever is worse thought...

Lisa Great review Megan. This one was a three star read for me too. The world building was awful, yet the story wasn't bad.

Megan Tatiana, This actually bored me to tears through the first half. Had I been reading this, rather than listening to the audio version I never would have finished.

Lisa, You're right, once you get past the awful world building the story is okay. Just hidden under bad writing :(

message 7: by Vinaya (last edited Apr 21, 2012 01:31AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vinaya Haha, every time I think all aspects of DeStefano's worldbuilding fail have been covered, someone comes along to prove me wrong. I think if we collated every instance of logic/science fail in the worldbuilding, we could literally rip apart at least one "fact" in every page! Hmmm... I wonder if I should try? (Obviously unemployment does strange things to me!)

message 8: by Megan (last edited Apr 21, 2012 05:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Megan Vinaya wrote: "Haha, every time I think all aspects of DeStefano's worldbuilding fail have been covered, someone comes along to prove me wrong. I think if we collated every instance of logic/science fail in the w..."

Yes! Let's try, and then perhaps that can be a fab way to start a career as book fact checker! Or, bad science dystopian checker... or, something ;)

It's a shame, I really do think she is an okay writer with some interesting ideas. Her editor, publisher... someone let her down by letting this thing go to print as is.

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