Wendy Darling's Reviews > Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
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The concept of a society in which girls are forced into polygamous marriages may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but I like art that pushes boundaries or attempts to explore unusual subjects in a meaningful way. Besides, the cover is gorgeous! And on the set decoration front, Wither is a novel that seductively beckons the reader with alluring images and positively drips with atmosphere. Languid young women wander around a mansion in lacy gowns waiting to be impregnated by their joint husband, due to drastically shortened life spans that force them into polygamous marriages. It's pretty much the love child of Ally Condie's Matched and the television show Big Love, as styled by Vogue.

While many of the scenarios and language are certainly quite beautiful, however, sometimes I wasn't sure whether I should laugh at the repeated images of our heroine lounging on a satin bedspread eating candy, all while she's supposedly upset over the situation she's in. There's a strange lack of internal dialogue and emotional distance that make it difficult to empathize with Rhine, and very few scenes that come close to evoking the horror that lies beneath the beautiful exterior of the pampered world in which she lives.

This whole concept just seems like a weird one for YA literature, too. In order for the icky factors of child brides (one of them is only 13), kidnappings, forced marriages, fixation on impregnation, murder, medical experimentations, and so on to be successful, they needed to be overridden by solid world-building, strong characters, and emotional depth. Unfortunately, the whys and wherefores of how society has disintegrated into this is never really explained, and as a result most of set-up for this world seems fairly ludicrous. The questions that were raised in my mind were also never really answered, nor the characters adequately developed. There are surface attempts to create relationships between Rhine and Linden and between the sister wives, but none of them seemed very real or compelling to me--and Rhine's interest in Gabriel seems due to proximity more than anything else. How can people live this closely together for so long and know next to nothing about one another? But is there really anything under the surface at all? After spending 358 pages with Rhine, I still don't feel as though I really know who she is or why people are drawn to her, except that they're supposed to be. It also strains credulity that a healthy young man would (view spoiler)

Overall, this novel just needed more tension, more anguish, more depth, and more feeling. By the time Rhine finally takes some action, I was fairly impatient with how long it had taken the story took to get there, as well as annoyed by how little information was revealed. I'm also disappointed in the missed opportunity to explore the unusual dynamic of a polygamous relationship, which was one of the weakest aspects of the book. I'm curious to see where the story goes, however, so I'll probably pick up the next installment in the series. But I'm crossing my fingers that the beauty of the language and imagery will also be matched by more intricate plotting and more genuine emotion.

The full text of this review may be found in The Midnight Garden.
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Reading Progress

05/16/2011 page 68
05/16/2011 page 189
53.0% 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Oooh, I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about this one! Happy reading!

Wendy Darling Thanks Jess! So far (after all the negative reviews) it's been a pleasant surprise.

message 3: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Thanks for the very nice review, Wendy! I'm not sure anymore whether I really want to read this but since I have it already I’ll probably give it a try soon anyway. :)

Wendy Darling I had very mixed feeling about this one, so I will be very curious to hear your opinion! A lot of people have really liked it, and part of me really did, too. I just couldn't get past what I wanted to get out of it (and didn't).

Nafiza Love the review. I had the same thoughts especially since I read this only a little while after I finished The Handmaiden.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Surprisingly I agree with mostly everything that you said, eventhough I get the feeling i liked it more than you. Except being Matched's love child. I felt like it was much better than that.

Wendy Darling Hah, too low a blow, huh? I actually didn't hate Matched, although it wasn't nearly as good as it should have been.

I'm interested enough in Chemical Garden to check out the next one though, so that's got to count for something! I just kept wondering how I'd feel about the book if the cover sucked or if Rhine weren't wearing so many beautiful gowns...

Stacia (the 2010 club) I liked this one better than Matched, but it didn't wow me either. The second book will be worth a look though.

message 9: by Milly (new) - added it

Milly Great review Wendy! I haven't read this one but it's been getting mix reviews so I've been reluctant to pick it up. But I actually enjoyed Matched a lot. At least the audible version of it was good for me.

Wendy Darling Thanks Milly! I bet this would actually be a pretty good one to listen to on audio. You might not notice the plot holes quite as much if someone's reading such lovely descriptions.

message 11: by Milly (new) - added it

Milly Wendy Darling wrote: "Thanks Milly! I bet this would actually be a pretty good one to listen to on audio. You might not notice the plot holes quite as much if someone's reading such lovely descriptions."

Thanks for the tip Wendy! I'll definitely find the audible version when I do feel like reading this one.

Wendy Darling Yeah, there are definitely a lot of similarities to Handmaid's Tale. Just as with Matched/The Giver I had to try to separate my image of one from the other as I was reading it.

Arlene Awesome review Wendy. I have to admit I'm moving on to the sequel out of morbid curiousity. :)

Wendy Darling Thanks Arlene. You can count me in for morbid curiosity about the sequel too!

Emily I'm in the middle of Wither currently, and I hate that the author killed off the rest of the world except North America. That seemed like a really cheap trick for "drama" and "this-really-is-a-dire-situation". I'm hoping that it will be revealed that this was actually a lie made up by the government so that people wouldn't try to make contact with the rest of the world, for whatever reason. But something in me is doubting that, sadly.

You made some good points in this review. I should've finished this book long ago, but the lack of anything happening has made me hesitant to pick it up after I set it down. It's not exactly boring, but I'm getting pretty uninterested. I "accidentally" read a little about Fever, and it said something about Rhine and Gabriel actually escaping. Maybe we'll see more world-building then, rather than just Rhine telling us teeny-tiny bits of it.

Brandi Fabulous review, and matches how I feel about it (so far) almost exactly!

message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Great review, Wendy. I had the same thoughts about Rhine that you did. I kept wondering why everyone liked her. She seemed to lack a personality.

Mirely You and I have been in sync! :-) Great review.

message 19: by Jess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jess I swear, I write my review for a book and then read yours, and I'm shocked by how similar they are! You always seem to say exactly what I'm thinking in a much more coherent way! ;-)

message 20: by Mad (new)

Mad A mixture of interesting and boring then.

message 21: by Em (new) - rated it 4 stars

Em "Rhine's interest in Gabriel seems due to proximity more than anything else." Bingo.

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