Friday, 7 October 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

What if you knew exactly when you would die?
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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 int0 polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
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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.
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But Rhine has more to contend with then 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 she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
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Oh dear. I so wanted to like this book. I had very high hopes after reading the synopsis and seeing the beautiful cover but unfortunately it just fell flat for me.
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The whole premise is very interesting. The whole idea that some sort of virus has been unleashed across the world that abruptly shortens the lives of everybody definitely piqued my curiosity. However, we never find out how this virus was created or how it actually affects human beings other that it kills them at a definitive age. Why is it only the new generations that are affected and not the people that were already living before the virus came into effect? How is the world functioning? We only learn about the kidnapping of young women and forcing them into marriage side of things. We never find out about what plans there are to to keep the world running in respects to amenities like electricity and water, food supply, or the training and filling of skilled professions like doctors and scientists for the future when the old generations die out. How did the governments cope? Did chaos and war ensue when the virus was released? There was so much that could have been explored, but I felt like we only had a very narrow view of what was happening in this changed world.
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I didn't particularly like Rhine as a main character. She never felt like a consistent character. It felt like she had two complete different personalities at times. I can understand that above everything else she wanted her freedom and that suddenly living in a house where she can have her every whim taken care of would make her doubt whether her freedom was really anything special. But one instant it felt like she was plotting her escape and the next it was if a switch had been flipped and she was back to being in love with Linden and not caring about her freedom or seeing her twin brother again. Instead of being the brave and determined heroine she was supposed to be portrayed as she came across as weak and a little pathetic. For me though, Linden wasn't any better. Apparently he is being hoodwinked by his father and doesn't have the slightest knowledge that at least two of his three new wives were kidnapped and forced to marry him. As far as he is concerned they willingly chose this lifestyle. I found this hard to believe because in the book he frequently attends parties and socialises with other 'husbands' that have kidnapped wives. He also seems to travel quite a bit for his architectural work so how he doesn't have even the slightest inkling that anything is wrong I can't imagine.
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The only character's I quite liked reading about were the two sister wives. The youngest, Cecily , was annoyingly immature but I gathered that was how she was supposed to be portrayed. The eldest, Jenna, was a very interesting character who had this subdued fierceness about her. She holds firm to her hatred towards Linden but realises that she has to make do with what has happened as she hasn't got much time left. It's as if she trains her mind to go blank at everything that frustrates her and lives her life simply by taking out of it only what she cares for despite the circumstances. She manages to become at peace with her thoughts. If the book followed Jenna instead of Rhine I think I would have enjoyed it but then again I suppose it wouldn't have set up the chance for a sequel.
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Surprisingly I actually quite like the relationship between Rhine and Gabriel. I felt it unfolded nicely and was quite sweet considering what was happening around them. Gabriel was a likable character and I would have loved to find out a bit more about him. I just wish the world had been expanded more. At one point it is mentioned that some girls are trained for these marriages in orphanages, like where Cecily came from but it never eludes what happens in them. We also learn that the oceans are poisonous but not how this affects the world or even if the virus has affected the animals. I would have loved to read more about Rhine and Rowan's time in New York city trying to survive against the kidnappers and burglars as well.
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One thing I did get from the novel though is how talented Lauren DeStefano is with her ability to write powerful prose. She seems to have a way with words that manages to paint beautiful pictures in your mind. She really managed to portray the languid yet haunting atmosphere of the mansion they spend their days in. I also admire her for attempting to tackle risky and scary subjects in YA so I will definitely look into her other works but unfortunately I will not be continuing with The Chemical Garden trilogy. The story is chilling and creepy with a very interesting premise but ultimately it left me dissatisfied.
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Random Passage: 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 colour 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?

2 comments:

The Slowest Bookworm said...

Oh no! What a shame you didn't enjoy it. I have read a few reviews from bloggers who didn't enjoy it as much as they hoped though. It's on my tbr shelf at the moment so I do hope that I enjoy it.

The Library Owl said...

@The slowest Bookworm - I know :( I wish I had loved it more and I can totally see why others would but it just wasn't for me. You should definitely read it though because there was some beautiful writing and I hope you enjoy it!