Linna's Reviews > Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
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's review
Feb 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: dystopian-and-apocalyptic, for-review
Read from April 15 to 16, 2011

Reading WITHER is an interesting experience. I felt a little like Rhine– the prose and pretty dresses and lavish details seemed intoxicating at a glance, but there was something off about it. Something that didn’t quite make sense, didn’t let me fully immerse myself in the story.

The writing is gorgeous and almost effortless. It’s almost impossible to put down, despite the fact that nothing outside of Rhine’s daily life in the mansion happens. You could lose yourself in DeStefano’s writing, and completely ignore the fact that a lot of things don’t make sense– and by the end of the novel I was so captivated that it almost didn’t matter. Almost. I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the logic behind the dystopic elements of the world.

The first thing that seemed contradictory was the fact that the population is dying out, and by all means young, fertile girls would be having as many children as possible. And yet they’d still shoot a van full of girls, just because they didn’t make the cut for the wealthy? Those gunshots are brought up again and again in the story, and they really demonstrate the ‘danger’ of Rhine’s society. But it seemed like they were just there for shock value.

The Governor’s mansion seemed almost anachronistic in this futuristic world. It felt like I was reading a Victorian novel, until Rhine sees a glimpse of the outside world– and everything is carrying on as usual. There are movie theatres and bright city streets, beaches and harbors. But Rhine’s childhood memories make it seem like she’s living in a chaotic, scavenger post-apocalyptic world. I’m not sure if it’s deliberate or if they just couldn’t decide on how this society actually works.

World-building issues aside, the characters are marvelous. Three-dimensional characters can be pushed aside for a shocking premise like this, but WITHER surprised me by having a brilliantly vivid cast. I thought Gabriel and Linden were a little flat, but Rhine’s fellow sister wives, Jenna and Cecily, were so well-written. Cecily is polarizing– she practically scared me with her enthusiasm for her situation, and she can be outright horrible. But she also had my sympathy in other scenes… she was never out of ‘character’, just a girl with lots of different emotions. And Jenna was my favorite character. There’s a lot of showing, not telling with the characterization– just the way I like it.

WITHER is a standout in the wave of dystopian novels to hit shelves. DeStefano isn’t afraid to kill off characters and has gift for writing strong characters, but the society she created just didn’t make sense to me. Still, this is beautifully written, elegant, even. I can’t wait for the sequel.
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Reading Progress

04/15/2011 page 88
25.0% "I love the writing so far. The contrast between artificial and Rhine's desire for something 'real' beautiful. But I just don't get the world-building. If the population is dying out, why would they shoot the other girls in the van? It seems like violence for the sake of violence. And does Rose even have any children? I don't see how the extravagant sister-wife thing is a good way to save the population..." 2 comments
04/16/2011 page 280
79.0% "I. Can't. Put. This. Down. One of the best books of 2011, and the year isn't even over yet! :P"

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