Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
May Contain Spoilers
Wither is one of the big releases of 2011, but it left me disappointed. This is another book with a great premise, but I found the execution wanting. Though we aren’t given many details, Rhine’s world is a thought-provoking place. Experiments and gene manipulation have eradicated cancers and birth defects, but they also have an extremely unexpected and unpleasant side-effect; everyone now dies at the cusp of adulthood. Reaching your twenties is lethal. All females now sicken and die when they turn twenty, and all males expire when they reach the ripe old age of twenty-five.
Rhine is kidnapped and separated from her brother after a bout of poor judgment places her in danger and leaves her vulnerable to the whims of the Gatherers. She is whisked away to a secluded, and very secure estate, where she is expected to become House Governor Linden’s bride. Along with her Sister Brides, Cecily and Jenna, Rhine is forced to adjust to her new circumstances, where she is a pampered prisoner. All the while she dreams of freedom, and being reunited with her brother.
I had a few problems with Wither. The first is the leisurely pacing. Jenna, Cecily, and Rhine spend most of the book lounging about, but it’s not their fault. Like a trio of canaries, they are captives in Linden’s mansion. He is kind and generous, and he bestows every luxury upon them. They have everything they could ever long for – everything but freedom. They move from one day to the next strolling through the elaborate garden, reading in the library, swimming in the pool. They have beautiful clothing, personal attendants, a lavish bedroom. Their lives are so much better than the danger-filled and furtive lives they lived before that I couldn’t understand why Rhine would want to go back to nights of standing guard, making sure intruders didn’t break into the home she shared with her brother.
And that brings me to my biggest disappointment with the story – why didn’t Rhine just ask Linden to let her brother live with them? I wondered this the entire time I read the book. Linden is in love with her, and would have granted her any wish within his power. Why leave her brother to fend for himself, struggling and scraping to survive, when he could have lived the life of luxury with her. Instead, Rhine keeps her life before meeting Linden a secret, and shares nothing of herself with him. This made her unapproachable to me, and I don’t feel that I ever got to really know her.
There’s plenty of drama between Rhine and her sister brides, and each of them does have a very distinct personality. They don’t always get along, and they often don’t see eye to eye, especially regarding Linden’s father. To add the threat of danger to her new life, his father, Vaughn, is cruel and calculating. He’s of the older generation, before the genetic manipulations doomed everyone to a short life. He’s also a geneticist, and he will do anything to find a cure to save his son. When Rhine suspects that he is conducting experiments in the basement, she is even more determined to flee from Linden. I did get sucked into the all of the drama, and I found the interpersonal relationships very compelling.
Even though I was disappointed with Wither, I did find myself absorbed in the book. I couldn’t put it down. I had, and still have, so many questions that I want an answer for. While this wasn’t my favorite read of the year, it was still engrossing enough for me to want to read at least the next book in the series. I just had a problem with some of the logic and plot drivers, and it occasionally drove me crazy!
Grade: Waffling between a B- and a C+
In stores March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher