Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Wither

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Category: Young Adult
Page Count: 356
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Series: n/a
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenge: 2011 DAC 
Quick Rating: 4/5
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In the not-too-distant future, because of genetic engineering, every human is a ticking tim bomb - males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. To keep the population from dying out, girls are kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriages.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine is taken, she enters a world of wealth and privilege that both entices and terrifies her. She has everything she ever wanted - except freedom. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to escape before it is too late.
 Wither is haunting, beautiful, sinister, and at times, even disturbing. I actually devoured it in one sitting, which was surprising, because there were a couple of things that actually turned me off about the novel. Nonetheless, something kept me going until the wee hours of the morning, just to know what happens at the end of it all. I even had a bizarre sister-wife dream of my own after finishing!

The world Lauren DeStefano has created is scary in the fact that it seems so plausible. Genetic engineering happens already today, girls are snatched off the streets and sold in today’s society. Though, if I’m being perfectly honest, if a third World War did break out, I don’t know if I’d believe America would be the last place standing. (China has my vote!)

Rhine as the main character wasn’t irritating, though I almost felt a lack of…something. Emotion maybe? Her pull in either direction wasn’t strong enough, her hatred wasn’t fierce enough, she wasn’t as sympathetic as I expected, and she wasn’t as determined as I wanted. She had elements of all these traits, enough for me to like her and sympathize with her, but not enough for me to admire her. I wanted more of a forbidden romance out of her and Gabriel - more than a couple of stolen kisses. Though I did like the bit about him hiding June Beans in her breakfast, and the fact that they actually talked. A conversation is so rare in young adult romances these days!

Follow the jump for more!

However, as usual, I’m in love with the secondary characters. Especially the sister-wives. I loved the deep relationship between all of the girls, the strange combination of being sisters and friends and wives. I enjoyed Jenna’s character, though I wish we’d seen more of her. I loved little Cecily, though she was one of the parts that disturbed me the most. The whole concept of a thirteen-year-old being completely obsessed with marriage, sex, and pregnancy is a little nauseating. I tried to get in the mindset that, really, in their society, she’s pretty much ready for it, given their lifespan is so short, but my modern sensibilities just wanted to grab a black marker and black it all out. I can also understand why Rhine could become so easily frustrated with her, but I also found myself wanting to tell her to lay off, the Cecily is only a child. By the end of the novel, I’m so drawn to Cecily and totally scared for her that I hope she makes appearances in the rest of the series. I need to know what happens to that poor, vivacious little redhead.

As for the men of the story, I appreciated all three for what they were. Gabriel is the (obviously) gorgeous servant who connects with Rhine over the simple desperation of being trapped. I can’t wait to find out more about him, because I felt he was a little bland in this one. Linden was also incredibly sympathetic. I was left at the end really wishing that, you know, someone had told him the truth. He’s such a na├»ve, sweet man, he deserves to know the truth about the people he loves. I appreciate that he never forces himself on any of his wives, and that he was actually so head-over-heels in love with his first wife. It made him extremely likable. His father on the other hand? Total creepster! I foresee him being a huge problem in the series - or at least I hope so, because he’s such a fantastic antagonist.

As mentioned, there were a couple of things I didn’t quite like about Wither. The pacing was a major one. Even though I read it in one day, it just felt so, so, so slow. Like nothing was really happening until the last couple of pages. I’ve been wondering if it’s a deliberate choice though, to reflect the monotonous lives of the sister-wives, stuck in an endless, unbreakable routine inside the mansion. If it was, I understand it, but I could’ve used a few little pick-me-up scenes to keep the ball rolling. I also didn’t like the repetitiveness of a couple of things. Saying over and over where she hid Gabriel’s handkerchief, repeatedly letting us know exactly what ages men and women die. Little details, certainly, but when they’re repeated every couple of chapters, it starts feeling a little redundant.

However, the ending was so deliciously hopeful, I’m begging for more! I can’t wait to see what comes next in Rhine’s life. Do they make it out ok? Are they hunted? Is a cure discovered? I am definitely looking forward to an amp up in the action and romance in the sequel!

The Final Word:
While slow, and a bit repetitive, there is definitely enough to keep you going. The world in Wither is haunting, beautiful, and terrifying. While maybe not the strongest of the future series, it lays a lot of necessary groundwork, and I think the series will only improve from here. Definitely a must-read of 2011!


Cover Thoughts: I fell in love with this cover the moment I saw it. It looks almost more like a fashion shoot than a young adult cover, and it’s amazing! All the lines and squares and circles are totally unique, and the bird in the cage? Such a perfect subtle detail!

Tea: I would definitely go with Earl Gray for this book. It has such a strong connection to Rhine and her twin brother, and it’s repeatedly mentioned throughout the novel. Pick your favorite brand and enjoy!

Memorable Quotes:

“I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids. We sleep huddled together like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying.” pg. 1

“Keeping in theme with all the other things in this place, the room fills with shimmering butterflies. They all quiver, and then burst like the strange bath bubbles. Blood everywhere in their wake. Then blackness.” pg. 30

“In my prison I lose myself in the history of a free and boundless world that’s long dead.” pg. 58

“ “So how long to you think it’ll be?” he says. “Before the next hurricane comes along to take you home.”
“Can I tell you my biggest fear?” I say.
“Yes. Tell me.”
“That it will be a very windless four years.” “ pg. 150

“Life is much different from the days when there were lilies in my mother’s garden, and all my secrets fit into a paper cup.” pg. 204

(All quotes come from the ARC edition - text or page numbers may have changed in the final edition.)

Wither hits stores tomorrow! Be sure to go out and pick up a copy! You definitely won't regret it.


  1. This has been on my wishlist since I knew it existed! I can't wait to finally read it, although, if I'm already reading something else I won't start tomorrow. Thanks for the review and it was interesting to hear about the dream you had. I always consider how a book might affect my dreams since I always read before bed. Ttyl!

    -Sandra @

  2. @Sakura: I always read before bed too! I've had a lot of bookish dreams in the past.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your review on this book. Great job!

  4. Really interesting and thorough review, I like how you gave so many little reasons as to why you liked and didn't like things about this one! I loved the secondary characters in this story too, I thought the relationships between Rhine and Cecily and Jenna were fascinating, as was her connection to Linden. I wasn't sure if I liked him, hated him, or just felt sorry for him and I love when a character creates all those conflicting emotions in me. I definitely would have liked some more with Gabriel, he was definitely a bit bland, but I hold out hope he'll be a more prominent part of book 2:)

  5. @Jenny: Coming from you, that's such a good compliment. You have such epically thorough and amazing reviews. XD

    But, yes, the sister-wives were definitely the best part of the whole book for me. I'm kind of worried in the sequel that it'll focus all on Rhine and Gabriel, and we won't know what happens to Cecily. :( But I'm crossing my fingers Gabriel does develop more too. I can't wait for book 2 at this point.

  6. Wonderful review, Liz! I've wanted to read this book since I first saw it, but now you just make me want to read it more. *shakes fist* I'm trying not to buy any books until April. The key word is trying...but I might cave soon. There's like, 10 books that just came up that I want to pick up.

  7. @Emi: I know your pain. :( I'm trying to cut back on my book buying, and it's absolute torture.