Review for Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

TITLE: Wither
SERIES: The Chemical Garden #1
AUTHOR: Lauren DeStefano
PUBLICATION DATE: March 22, 2011
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
PAGES: 358 pages
FORMAT: Hardback
SOURCE: Purchased
RATING: 5 stars

Rhine Ellery lives in a not so distant future where all disease has been cured. Scientists found a way to create perfect embryos that grew into disease free children. Everything has been fixed, no cancers, no colds, and no untimely death. But something goes wrong when these perfect children procreate and their children are ticking time bombs. The males don’t live past 25 and the females drop at 20. This creates a frenzy to find a cure and also pushes the children to marry and mate as soon as physically possible. Things like teen pregnancy and polygamy are now not only common but expected. Crime and poverty have also skyrocketed, with endless orphans scavenging to survive and gathers stealing young girls off the streets to sell into marriages with wealthy men. When Rhine is captured, she wants nothing more than to run away, back to the freedom of life in Manhattan with her twin, but the longer she stays the more she wonders is life in free poverty really better than imprisonment in luxury?

I believe I stated in my last review that I was looking for something to blow me away and this managed to accomplish that. This is the first dystopian I’ve read in a long time, the first one I’ve read this year actually and I’m reminded of why I loved them so much. I always find the worlds completely fascinating. Unlike some, I don’t have a problem with the sometimes preposterous ideas that make up these worlds. I think its fiction and that makes anything possible so as long as it seems well thought out and has a basic set of unbreakable laws of psychics, I’m game. If you can read zombie novels or The Hunger Games without complaining about how ludicrous this idea is, then I don’t think you really have a right to complain about any of crazy ideas. I think Lauren DeStefano does a commendable job building this world, from the hellish first chapter that shocked me with its mass murders to the last one that leaves off with a bit of hope for the future. I was completely enraptured with the raw, dirty feel of this world and the complete bleak outlook of the future. How long can this possibly go on? Once the perfect first generation dies off, which isn’t far away, how long before the doomed younger generation just gives up completely?

Rhine was one of those headstrong feisty characters that you can’t help but root for. She becomes pretty skilled at lying to save her skin, but underneath, you can almost always see the fire and need for her freedom. It was very fascinating to watch some of her ideals fade the longer she stayed in Linden’s world. Will it really be that easy to walk away from this world where everything you could want or need is just a button mash away? Whether she likes it or not, she becomes accustomed to having everything provided for her which will only make things harder if she ever makes it out. I find her ability to still be compassionate and emotional truly spectacular because it would be all too easy to just hate the world and everyone in it instead.

Then there are her sister wives who manage to bond with her. Jenna is eighteen which gives her just two more years to live and Cecily is thirteen which means she’ll outlive both of them. The bond these three manage to form is part of what both makes the idea of polygamy bearable and abhorrent. I understand that none of these women love Linden, except maybe Cecily, but the idea of sharing a husband when the wives would never be allowed the privilege of more than one lover is completely offensive to me. The idea that Linden finds nothing wrong with having more than one wife is also absurd. Speaking of Linden…

I‘ve read a lot of reviews that mention it is completely beyond belief that he could be so naïve about what’s really going on in the world and in his own home but it’s that fact that I really thought brought more life to the story. If Linden were fully aware of exactly how his wives came to be there and what they had left behind, had made a completely informed decision to bring them there, then it would have been so much easier for Rhine and the others to hate him and wish even more for an escape. Having Linden been a genuinely good person who believes he is helping these girls in some way by giving them the life of being his wife(wives) is a genius move in my opinion. It makes all of Rhines choices harder. My one big disappointment is that Rhine never enlightens him. I really would love to read the scene where Rhine tells him what happened to bring them there, the truth about the gathers and Jenna’s sisters and what his father is really up to. I just want to see how he reacts, after the initial disbelief and shock wears off. I want to see what his true colors are and what he does to make things right, if he does anything at all.

When it comes down to it, this book has several things I hate, including (but not limited to) cliffhangers and love triangles, but it is amazing enough that I still gave it five stars anyway and really, doesn’t that say it all?

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