Monday, June 6, 2011

REVIEW - Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither - Book # 1 in the Chemical Garden trilogy
by: Lauren DeStefano
**~Warning: Review contains SPOILERS~

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being 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 corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

“Love is not enough to keep any of us alive.”

I didn’t know what to expect when I first picked up Wither since initially I was attracted to the book by its cover…but I was happily surprised once I started reading. I wasn’t sucked in by the first page like I generally prefer in books. I’ve always stated if the first page can’t hook me – I probably won’t like the book. Wither proved me wrong.

I WAIT. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids.
The story starts out trying to throw you right into the action, setting the story up to introduce the Gatherers to us, and how desperate life has become in the future. Do I think DeStefano succeeded? Eh, maybe. A lot is given away right up front on the summary on the back cover. The story develops over time though beginning slightly slowly for me.

I devoured the book in a matter of 48 hours. I couldn’t get enough. Chapter after chapter flew by and I found myself further involved in the lives of the main characters and couldn’t wait to see what would happen at the end.

What I loved...
Rhine’s character was one of the better strong, determined female characters I’ve seen in awhile. Her raw passion and will to live life on her terms was infectious. Often, Rhine is found fighting within herself against how she feels. While she loathes Linden for her being in the mansion, she also is a compassionate person and sympathizes because as the book goes on she learns that Linden is not the bad guy; he’s being used and manipulated by his father Vaughn, and Linden is clueless.

Cecily’s character was filled with love/hate moments. I love her innocence and naivety. Her vulnerability. I hated her telling Vaughn about Rhine & Gabriel. I hated her twisted take on reality. But is Cecily truly to blame for it? No. She craves, needs the love that Linden is so willing to give. Her mind believes that giving birth to Linden’s children, being at his every beck and call will provide her with that love that she needs.

Jenna also was a character so tragic it was hard not to feel sorry for her. Learning that her sister’s were killed by Vaughn, Jenna is determined to never fall into line and follow Vaughn’s rules. She remains aloof, to keep Linden at bay. However, she fulfils her marital duties since she made money welcoming men into her bed before being captured by the Gatherers. Jenna knows she will die in the house, but she will not die living a false life. In the end, Vaughn ends up being responsible for Jenna’s death. This is an unthinkable act that goes against the theory that Vaughn does everything he does out of love for his son.

Each character is so flawed that I love it! I hate when you read a book and the main character is so perfect, gets everything that they want happily ever after, that you finish and you wonder why you even bothered. Wither is nothing like that. DeStefano does wonderfully with the characters. Each is well developed. I several times found myself loving their imperfections and screw-ups more than when their strengths were displayed.

What I Disliked...
The ending; by far is the weakest link in this book. How cliché that the main character escapes and sails off into the sunset to conquer the world with her forbidden lover.


There is plenty still to read about in the next two final books of the trilogy however. There are many loose ends that will need to be tied up. It will be interesting to see how DeStefano writes the next books; if we will see what’s going on in the mansion with the characters left behind or if it will solely focus on Rhine and Gabriel, and Rhine’s search for her brother, Rowan.

Notable Scenes & Quotes
One of my favorite scenes is when Linden and Rhine share their first kiss. Linden tells Rhine that he loves her, and before Rhine can stop it, the words “I love you” slip right past her lips as well. The love triangle between Linden, Rhine, and Gabriel is unlike any other I can think of. Here is Rhine, married to this stranger who she hates so much, but cannot help pitying. And then there is the servant, Gabriel, whom she’s immediately attracted to. You can feel that Rhine pities Gabriel as well, but for completely different reasons.
            Rhine’s pity for Linden lies in that fact that he views her as Rose’s replacement. She does everything she can to make it very clear to Linden that she is not Rose and never will be. 
"I wonder if she has figured out that I'll never love Linden, especially not in the way she does, and that he'll never love anyone the way he loves her. I wonder if she realizes, despite all her efforts to train me, that I can never take her place."
Rhine also pities Linden’s blindness to his father’s twisted lies. Rhine sees right through all of the demented things that Vaughn does but Vaughn believes he does it out of love for his son. This may be true; however, I believe that when Linden learns the truth about his father we’ll see another side of Linden we haven’t seen yet.
            Rhine’s pity for Gabriel lies in the fact that Gabriel doesn’t know anything of the outside world. He was born in Florida; an orphan; and has been a servant for the Ashby’s for as long as he can really remember. I feel like there is a lot we still have to learn about Gabriel and I feel that some of it will end up hurting Rhine. It may be things that even Gabriel is unaware of, but truths will be revealed.

"Tell me about yourself." 

"Myself?" He looks confused. 

"Yes," I say, patting the mattress. 

"You know all there is to know," he says, sitting beside me. 

"Not true," I say. "Where were you born? What's your favourite season? Anything." 

"Here. Florida," he says. "I remember a woman in a red dress with curly brown hair. Maybe she was my mother, I'm not sure. And summer. What about you?" The last part is said with a smile. He smiles so infrequently that I consider each one a trophy."

            When Jenna confides in Rhine that her sister’s were in the van that brought the girl’s to the mansion. Rhine remembers that the girls that were not picked – the girls that were not herself, Jenna, or Cecily – were herded back into the van and that’s when Rhine heard…
…the gunshots.

"Suddenly the clouds seem high above us. They’re moving over us in an arch, circling the planet. They have seen abysmal oceans and charred, scorched islands. They have seen how we destroyed the world. If I could see everything, as the clouds do, would I swirl around this remaining continent, still so full of color and life and seasons, wanting to protect it? Or would I just laugh at the futility of it all, and meander onward, down the earth’s sloping atmosphere?"

Last Thoughts

Simply put…I cannot wait for the second book…I’ve already recommended Wither to friends.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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