Diana Reviews: Lauren DeStefano's - "Wither"

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

It seems I’ve lucked in with book covers in my reading choices. In my previous review, I commented on how Jodi Meadows’s Incarnate had a beautiful cover. Well, it’s the same for Lauren DeStafano’s Wither. It has a gorgeous cover that perfectly matches the book.

But let’s get on with the review, shall we?

Wither is yet another dystopian Young Adult book set in US. Sometime in the future, a generation of perfect human beings—strong people without diseases—has been genetically engineered by scientists. However, once that generation reproduced, the people realized there was a big price for such perfection: their offspring had a virus that invariably caused them to die young. Women can only reach the age of twenty, while men can get to twenty five.

Sixteen-year-old Rhine lived in New York until one day, when she gets captured and sold to a 21-year-old House Governor to be his wife in a polygamous marriage. Sold along with her is 19-year-old Jenna, who is quiet and graceful, and 13-year-old Cecily, who seems to believe she’s the luckiest girl alive for having found a rich husband. But Rhine, unlike the other two brides, doesn’t want to be in captivity. She wants to escape the beautiful mansion where she’s been kept prisoner (albeit with every luxury available) and find her twin brother Rowan.

Rhine’s character is finely crafted in almost every aspect and you do root for her to escape. While at first, you hate Linden, as Rhine gets to know him, he slowly creeps into your heart as he did with Rhine. Jenna is beautiful and reserved and hides a very dark past and Gabriel is a sweet, caring boy. Even Linden’s father Vaughn, the villain of the book, is well thought-out in his cruelty and you do understand why he does the experiments he does. The only character I did not care about was Cecily, who’s an annoyingly bratty 13-year-old with a big fondness for playing house.

I have to admit, I found the premise to be quite captivating, especially the part where people know their time is ticking away. There’s an urgency to everything Rhine does, all because she knows she only has four years left to live. Of course, there are people trying to find an antidote through some grueling methods and while they’re depicted as awful, both the character of Rhine and the reader understand the motive behind such cruelty: despair. I don’t know if it was Lauren’s intention or not, but despair seems to be the main focus of this book: Rhine’s despair to escape, the people’s despair to find a cure and the despair felt when a girl is close to twenty.

I found the weakest part of the book to be the romance. Rhine is being held captive and she resents her husband Linden for it, but she soon realizes things are not what they seem and begins falling a little bit in love with him. Then, there’s Gabriel, one of the house’s many attendants, for whom Rhine risks a lot despite not knowing him very well. Both relationships are not very deep and I found them to be somewhat awkwardly handled. It’s a shame, because it’s what keeps this book from being stellar instead of merely good.

Lauren’s writing is very competent and she manages to capture the struggle that goes on in Rhine’s head, well—should she just give up and live the remnants of her life away from her brother in such a lascivious place or should she run and be free? Often, the prose has a creepy quality and it fitted perfectly with the book’s theme.

Overall, Wither is a capable debut whose premise is intriguing, with an aura of anguish, and an ending that will make you want to read the sequels.

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harper Voyager (4 Aug 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0007425473

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