Finished: December 24, 2011
Pages: 320 (Paperback)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Add It: Goodreads
Series: The Chemical Garden (#1)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Read the first chapter of Wither at Simon & Schuster's website.
Quote: “There's nothing here to say good-bye to. There's no dancing girl. No mischievous smile. She's gone, off with her sisters, broken free, escaped. And if she were here now, she would say, "Go.”
Cover Love?: As soon as the cover art was released, my interest in this novel was piqued. Call me superficial, but I love some good cover art. I think that the cover really captures the feel of the novel, of the blanket of glamour that has been thrown over Rhine's horrible world, to hide all that is beneath. I also really love the purple coloring.
Thoughts: I wanted to like Wither. Considering the fact that I eat up Dystopia novels the same way I eat a tray of cookies placed anywhere in my vicinity, I was fully expecting to love this. I sat down with the beautiful purple book and went forward with no hesitation. Unfortunately, once I got to Linden's mansion, I began experiencing a strange feeling. We'll call it frustration.
For me, it was completely unrealistic to see Rhine expressing any sort of emotion toward Linden. Were we supposed to feel sorry for this character as we watched him bed hop between three different girls? One of them being a thirteen year old? Were we supposed to believe that Linden was so naive to his father's cruel plans despite the fact that he begins the novel by selecting his brides from a line up? If this was the author's intention, then for me as a reader, she failed to make me believe. I've included a bit of a spoiler after this sentence in white text: Are we also supposed to see Rhine as virtuous compared to her sister brides? When Gabriel comes into her room to see her with Linden in her bed, he begins to act cold to her, but why? Are we to think that if Rhine was intimate with Linden it would be her fault? I thought Rhine being chosen as the favorite, but keeping her virginity intact, did a disservice to the novel. It was completely unrealistic given the world Rhine was living in, and I think in an effort to keep Linden seen to the reader as a somewhat naive blundering idiot, he was kept a bit more gentle in scenes with Rhine, than he might have been with her sister brides. We are given only glimpses of the things he is doing to them behind closed doors.
I also thought the world building was more than a bit off. One of the biggest questions I ask myself when reading dystopia is "Do I believe this can really happen?" and here, the answer is no. While the novel does evoke a Handmaid's Tale vibe (a book that was an example of an extremely believable and horrific dystopia to me) this novel seems to try too hard to make itself alarming. A Handmaid's Tale scenario would make sense and would have been just as horrendous, without adding this strange killing disease to the mix. It might have been a cool idea if the disease had made a bit more sense, but males and females dying mysteriously at exact ages? That seems too far fetched. The five year age difference between the deaths of females and males felt like a convenient plot detail.
One thing I did really love about this book was the relationship between the sister wives. I've never seen something like that explored before, and it was completely fascinating to watch three very different girls thrust into a precarious situation, and watch them form such deep bonds to one another. I found their scenes together, particularly those toward the end, to be extremely heartwarming. In my opinion, this is one book that might have benefited from multiple perspectives. I would have loved a perspective from Jenna.
Another thing that was clear to me from reading is the fact that Lauren DeStefano is, in fact, a very good writer. The world Rhine was pushed into was described in beautiful detail. I could easily imagine the grand dresses and delicious floral baths. They jumped from the pages and pulled me in.
I haven't decided yet if I will continue with the series.
Recommendation: Extremely loyal dystopia fans. Those who aren't bothered by a bit of far fetched world building. Those who don't mind a small case of InstaLove.
Two out of Five Coffees
Wither is on sale now in paperback. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and other retailers. The sequel, Fever, will be released February 21, 2012.
Extras: Want to check out some other perspectives on Wither? Find other reviews at Fantastic Book Review & Makeshift Bookmark.