Angela's Reviews > Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
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Jan 14, 2011

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bookshelves: young-adult, arc, apocalyptic-or-dystopian, 3-5-stars, read-in-2011

Emotionally gripping debut with a few stumbles, 3.5 stars

Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, WITHER, opens with a harrowing scene: young women have been plucked off the streets and forced into the back of a van. Some will be killed, and others will be sold into polygamous marriages. Ever since geneticists made a mistake, all women die at age 20 and all men at age 25. Along with two other women, Rhine is sold to a wealthy man as a replacement for his dying wife. Locked away in his mansion, Rhine must decide whether to accept the life of luxury she’s been provided or whether to risk everything to escape back to a world of freedom and her twin brother.

WITHER opens with the best first chapter I’ve read in a while, and the story’s hook will grab readers immediately. The book excels in its chilling depiction of the realities of Rhine’s world, and the writing doesn’t shy away from descriptions about sex and sexuality, the inner workings of the polygamous marriage, and how different people would adapt to the situation. Through its story, the novel also touches on hot issues like assisted reproduction and genetic engineering. Rhine and her two sister-wives, Cecily and Jenna, are sympathetic as characters in their own unique ways. I found their complicated relationships with one another to be the most compelling in the book. The novel also finishes with an ending that can stand on its own, even with the known sequel forthcoming.

Despite the extremely strong opening, storyline, and created world, the book faltered a bit. The mythology and world building regarding the “virus” and the resulting society was not always clear and had some plot holes. Rhine’s romantic relationship with Gabriel, the servant boy, wasn’t very moving, and some of the characters’ actions were unclear in their reasoning or felt manufactured. For example, Rhine’s flip-flopping about whether to stay or leave didn’t always feel genuine. The different relationships depicted between Linden, the husband, and each of his wives also felt out of character for each woman at times.

While I did find a few things that could be improved, DeStefano is obviously a strong new force in the young adult dystopian genre, and I look forward to seeing where book two in her trilogy leads.

Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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I am Bastet I'm jealous you got an ARC of this! I keep entering contests to win one, but I haven't been able to get my hands on it. Great review. I feel like I know what to expect, now.


Angela I was able to read it through the ARC tour site/group that I belong to. If I hadn't had to pass it along, I would have been more than willing to share it with you now. The book's quite good, as you read in my review, but I think it could have been nearly perfect with some changes. Based on the first chapter alone, I thought it was going to be a five-star book. I'm looking forward to what happens in the coming two books.


Tabitha Olson Great review, as always. :) Right after I finished this book, I thought it was okay. Then I sat down to write my review... The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me, and the more contrived it seemed. The story felt very mechanical to me, like things happened because they were supposed to happen. I was really disappointed.


Angela @Tabitha: Hi there! And thanks for the compliment, like always. I seemed to have had a better reaction to it than you did, but I understand what you mean. I think that this author has a lot of potential but she'll have to work on better world building and character continuity to wow me in future works. After the first chapter, I was just so sure this was going to be a five-star book, but then it wasn't. Too bad. :(


Tabitha Olson Yeah, I was really impressed by that first chapter, too. I was really excited to read the rest of the story, but it slowly went downhill for me. If I hadn't written then review, then I would have walked away with the same reaction you had. But the more I thought about it, the more contrived it seemed, and the less I liked the main character. Shame, really, because now I'm not sure if I'll read the next book...


Angela @Tabitha: Interesting how we were both affected so strongly by the first chapter but then not so much re: the rest of the book. I was impressed enough with DeStephano's writings that I will plan to read the next book when it comes out and comes to the library. Even though that's probably a year away, I'll be sure to report back to you then about whether it's worth your time or not. ;)


Tabitha Olson Thanks! :)


Angela @Tabitha: No problem!


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