Monday, July 23, 2012
A Review of 'Wither' by Lauren DeStefano
Thanks to modern science, every newborn 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 the corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left."
Now that I've finished this book, I don't really know what to say. I'm speechless. There were many, many things that I loved about this book and a few things that I have a bone to pick with. to start, with the good things!
The world was terrifying and, taking everything about this book into account, it was believable. I was easily drawn in and it was a struggle to put the book down.
The characters had diverse personalities and they interacted with each other in different ways. Because of this, some of the characters were quite like-able. Jenna was resilient and her only objective was survival until the inevitable, Cecily was the bouncing and excited bride, Rhine was the nice one who intended to escape.
I thought that it was really neat that Rhine thought of the other two wives as her sisters. That was just something that was kind of important for me. I thought that a lot of the book was going to be about the three wives competing for the affections of Linden, but that wasn't the case at all. It was quite the opposite, actually.
The things that I didn't like were pretty basic parts of the plot. I spent a lot of the book wondering, "Why would DeStefano choose North America as the only surviving continent?" I'm probably not as up to date on global affairs as I should be, so the answer could be very obvious, but I'm completely missing it. I did appreciate that DeStefano seemed to take Global Warming into account. The weather was very strange in several of the settings and of course, every other country is underwater in this book.
Another thing that bothered me was how little credit Rhine gave Cecily. She often refers to Cecily as something along the lines of a young, happy, and excitable bride, because she's thirteen/fourteen in this book. She calls Cecily naive and at times, yes, she is, but Rhine seems to forget that Cecily is growing up in the same world that she is. She's certainly not stupid and she knows what's going on. Cecily's character is so complicated because, despite being a brat and not the most liked person in the sprawling mansion, she is forced into so many roles that she gets confused. She is an orphan, then transformed into a bride, suddenly she's pregnant and she's left out because she's the youngest, then she's a mother who isn't allowed to take care of her own child. Cecily is contemptible, but I can't bring myself to altogether hate her because she's going through all of this stuff that no girl her age should ever have to go through. I have to say that I like Cecily more than Rhine because she's such a round and well-developed character whereas Rhine is older and essentially a one-track mind that's set on escape.
Speaking of Rhine wanting to escape, I couldn't help but side with Jenna on this. Rhine is so set on escaping that it essentially consumes her. My question is, why would she want to leave when she has so much going for her here in Florida? I understand that she is worried about her twin, but Rowan seems to be the kind of character that's interested in survival. Wouldn't you think that he'd leave if he didn't think that Rhine was ever going to come back? So that leaves me with the same question. If Rhine went back to Manhattan, she would have to deal with the Gatherers again, she would have to worry about being snatched, she would have to worry about all of the things that go into basic survival. It seems that, despite being away from her family, the mansion is really better for her. Housemaster Vaughn (I have more to say about him next) really seems to be the worst thing about the mansion, so why not try and pluck him off rather than getting out and feeling his apparent wrath later?
One thing that I don't really understand is the character of Housemaster Vaughn. I agree, he's a frightening doctor that is a little out of his mind, but there's something about him that makes him seem like he's just words and no action. There's no proof that he killed Jenna, though her death at the earlier than early age of nineteen by the virus is suspicious, I'll admit. There are things that he apparently says and does, but how many times has he actually done anything that we, the readers, know about before the characters do? We haven't seen anything Rhine hasn't seen and she hasn't directly seen Vaughn do anything. She saw him feeding his grandchild a bottle, but that's the worst thing he's done. He's said things that are much worse and he's more like this ever-watching doctor of the house. He's a character that I will be interested in seeing more development in the coming books.
Rhine's relationship with Gabriel seems rushed and I think DeStefano kind of acknowledges this when Rhine admits that she hasn't had time to know how she feels towards anyone. I like the idea of Rhine and Gabriel, but despite that, their relationship seems like some conversations and several kisses. I'll be interested in seeing how this develops as well in the coming books.
Overall, this was a very thought-provoking read with an interesting setting and back story. I can't wait to see how things turn out in the next two books, which I will for sure be reading.
I give 'Wither':