Wither by Lauren DeStefano (S&S, 2011)-Well, I was afraid that Wither wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I really did find myself enjoying this strange, creepy, and lyrical novel. In a future where boys only live until their 25th birthday, and girls only live to 20, 16 year old twins Rhine and Rowan Ellery live a tenuous existence after their geneticist parents are killed in a lab explosion. Human DNA tampering , in an effort to create “perfect” humans, has created a virus that now causes people to live a fraction of their former life expectancy.
One night, Rhine is kidnapped by Gatherers, men tasked with stealing brides for wealthy landowners so that they can hopefully breed healthy, virus-free children. In Rhine’s case, she is taken to the home of Linden Vaughn, and his eccentric (and creepy crawly inducing) father, who is a doctor that claims to be working on a cure for the virus. Along with her sister wives, 13 yr. old Cecily and 18 yr. old Jenna, Rhine enters a world of wealth and priviledge, but soon discovers that this gilded cage is just that, a prison of terrifying proportions. As she watches her world fall apart around her, and misses her brother, she begins to plan her escape, at any cost.
Wither is written wonderfully, and the author left quite a bit to the imagination, which is a good thing, and goes a long way toward fostering the creepy, rather claustrophobic, atmosphere intended with the insular environment she created. Rhine narrates the story, and manages to convey the terror, fear, and frustration she feels on a daily basis, interspersed with moments of genuine joy and happiness. At times she starts to lose herself, and it’s those times that made me think about the power of our environment, and how we’re shaped. There’s even a hint of romance as Rhine begins to form a relationship with a servant named Gabriel, who she enlists to help her plot her eventual escape. I fell in love with Rhine, and the strong willed, street savvy Jenna. I even fell for the young, naïve Cicely, who, raised in an orphanage, never knew love and readily clung to the illusion of security and “home” that was presented to her on a silver platter upon arriving at the mansion.I urge you to give this one a try! I’ll be looking forward to more from Lauren DeStefano!
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