Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Wither

Star Rating: 5/5


By: Lauren DeStefano

The human race is dying and has been since science’s first generation of disease-free children had families of their own. Decades before, cancer was cured and science engineered its own population of healthy children. There was no reason to conceive of a natural child when science could perfect embryos, keeping them free of all ailments. Unfortunately, things have changed. While this first generation of children thrives, their children die young—the men at twenty-five and the women at twenty. Doctors search for some new cure. Wealthy families fight to keep their lines going through polygamist marriages. Gatherers steal young women off the streets to sell as potential wives. But the population is still dying and there seems to be little left to live for.

Rhine has no one left but her brother, but even he is lost to her now. Kidnapped, drugged, and driven to a mansion hundreds of miles from home, she has no idea where she is and little hope of getting home. She knows enough to know what’s about to happen. She’s heard about the wealthy men who marry multiple women—she’s even seen them on TV at parties with their glamorous first wives. It’s her turn to marry now, but perhaps she will be able to run away. Unable to trust even her fellow stolen sister wives, Rhine prepares to lie her way to freedom. Becoming first wife is her key to escape, but will she be able to convince both her new husband and his controlling father she’s the one? And if she manages that will she still be willing to risk her newfound fortune for a short, rough life outside the mansion?

DeStefano’s Wither is a world that wraps you up and draws you in right from page one. This macabre dystopia—a future earth that is horrifyingly familiar—is thankfully filled with the life of the novel’s heroine. Rhine focuses on escape even though it would be a return to a life of poverty and survival. While it seems grim, her old life embodied freedom and love as she and her brother provided for themselves and stuck together. Her determination and longing to be free defy the wealthy society’s pessimistic approach to life. The wealthy put on appearances through parties and purchases. They barely cling to life as they indulge in material pleasures and immerse themselves in illusions. Conversely, Rhine refuses to give in to temporary fixes or to settle for a comfortable situation. Instead she strives to live, accepting that risks and heartbreak are undoubtedly before her.

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