Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Wither (Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Hardcover, 356 pages

Released: March 22, 2011

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

ISBN13: 9781442409057
What if you knew exactly when you would die? Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home. But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts
It's post WW3 and and the destruction has left only North America, oceans & uninhabitable islands. Seventy years ago scientists thought we had perfected the human race. There were cures for cancer, immune systems boosted & the old way of natural conception stopped in favour of perfectly engineered embryos. The only problem, the children of the first generations came with a major flaw...their life span was limited (males didn't live past 25, females past 20). This is the story of Rhine, a 16 year old kidnapped so that she can be one of three wives to Linden, an architect but more importantly the son of a wealthy scientist on the hunt for the antidote that will lengthen lives again.

The intense beginning of this story keeps you captivated throughout. It appears humanity is lost with nothing being natural anymore, including love, the first generation is on a mission to find the cure at all cost. Life is now full of illusions, holograms are your entertainment, what was once real and beautiful is now fantasy. From the get go, Lauren makes the reader fall for the illusion of a better life by engaging all our senses: sight (the bedroom full of color), smell (the aroma of soaps), touch (satin sheets) sound (the unforgettable gunshots) and taste (the candy).

Although the plot appears depressing, Lauren has brilliantly created a contrast that provides hope and makes you question yourself. For the last 4 years, Rhine lived with her brother, worked factory jobs. The fear of being robbed forced them to hide in the basement at night, taking sleep shifts. Now, she lives in a mansion, lush and full of color, a pool, gardens, an orange grove and is waited on hand over foot, in what she calls her 'lavish prison'. Is this 'perfect life' so bad? Her sister wives are quite different, one older than her, Jenna, accepting of life as is but not going down without a fight, while the other girl, Cecily, is younger and fascinated with her new life & so eager to please. Just as Rhine struggles a bit, I found myself sympathetic to Linden. He does what his father asks of him, is naive & clueless, and practically a prisoner to his father just like Rhine...but he is also the one who stole her.

Hope is not lost though, as Rhine befriends her attendant, Gabriel. It is Gabriel that she can confide in...until their closeness is discovered. They both dream of the outside world, the freedom and plans of escape are made. But even if they make it out, what will they find? Just like Christopher Columbus proved that the world is not flat, there has to be more to this world, right? This is where you can't help but cheer them on!

Full of great characters, a few twists and turns and an eerie plot (are we not a pro-science society trying to perfect everything?), Wither is a superb debut by Lauren. I am curious to find out more about the science and Gabriel, and can't wait to continue Rhine's journey!


  1. This one has caught my eye since the first time I saw that gorgeous cover! I never really knew what it was about though. Thanks for this marvelous review! I love how the author incorporates all 5 senses - that kind of writing is always the best.

  2. This sounds really amazing, it's on my tbr pile but I think I'm going to be pushing it up higher. Great review! =D

  3. One of my favorite dystopian reads this year. I know Wither was just released but I'm already looking forward to information on book 2.

  4. I loved it. It was so good. Can't wait for the sequel.