Hardcover - 368 pages
ISBN 10: 1442409053
ISBN 13: 978-1442409057
Released: March 22, 2011
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Obtained: ARC Tours
Genre: Young Adult - Dystopian
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy
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 limted time she has left.
You know, I really wasn't buying all the hype for this book. I figured, "Oh, WITHER is going to be exactly like all of those other mediocre YA debuts I've seen in 2010, and it'll probably have some horrible love triangle to boot." And of course, unsurprisingly, after reading this book, I could slap myself. Perhaps 2011 will be the year where debuting authors redeem the genre for me? I truly hope so.
...because I read this book in one night. I missed reading books that sucked me in and kept me going from cover to cover -- especially books from the YA genre, a genre that I have a love-hate relationship with. I've found that, ever since starting Book Faery, I've generally become more critical of the texts I read. That's good for me when it comes to my own writing, but it's also bad because I get burnt out when forced to face off against a string of so-so books. Reader burnout, anyone?
WITHER is one of the most enjoyable dystopians I've read thus far (though I'm not entirely sure how reliable that statement is, considering I haven't read many). Be forewarned: this novel is not for the faint of heart. It's dark, it's gritty, it deals with death, what love is, monogamy, the concept of having multiple wives. You name it, and this book probably has it.
The universe this world is set in is even more unique than its themes. America still exists, yet after a World War 3 which wiped out a lot of the countries around the world, and with a disease affecting younger generations, the human population is suffering. Girls can only live until they're 20 and boys until they're 25. Parents are forced to become parents at extremely young ages, abandoning their children due to a premature death. Men in white coats stalk the streets to kidnap girls from their families to sell to rich young men as sister wives. It would be a nightmare living in this kind of world, and yet, I literally felt like I was living in it while reading WITHER.
Rhine is the heroine of our story and I loved her from page one. She's got this exhausted-yet-I-will-survive air about her that I could not get enough of. I respected her and I loved her determination to escape and find her twin brother. It was inspiring reading about her character. I wish more heroines were this determined.
The relationships that develop between Rhine and her sister wives almost brought me to tears at one point while reading this story. One does not think much of the two girls initially, but as time progresses, I felt as if I was part of this trio, an inseparable group of girls determined to survive despite what the house they live in throws at them. It was tragic witnessing what eventually happens to the three, and yet, despite the tragedy in this story, I still have some sort of hope that things will be okay for them.
I felt despair. I thought about how miserable life would be if I could only live until I was 20. It got me brooding about some... well, less than happy thoughts (which I could have avoided), but the book was so beautifully written I would have faced the feelings of despair all over again to re-experience this world and its characters.
Like I said earlier, WITHER completely deserves all its hype. After about a week passed (back in Dec 2010 when I wrote this review), I still look back fondly when thinking about this book. Oh, and check out that cover. The people at S&S outdid themselves by picking up an excellent novel/author and creating a cover that truly captures what this story is about. There is major symbolism on this cover folks. Highly recommend checking this novel out if you want to read a good dystopian. Cannot wait to see what will happen next in this series.