Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

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.

The premise around this story is really interesting. Polygamy in a post-apocalyptic world? Very intriguing. I was excited when I sat down with this book.

It starts out well, and the horror and fear rippling through the girls is tangible. I started out liking Rhine a lot, and empathized with all three girls as they were forced into a marriage that they didn't necessarily want or understand. I really love the friendships that blossom between them, too. By the end of the story, they were close enough to be sisters, and something that affects one of them affects all. That was really well done.

I wish the world-building had been clearer. What is this virus? Why is North America the only continent left? Even if we don't get the full answer, something is better than nothing. Also, if the human race is dying, then a woman's womb would be a very precious commodity. Girls with no means would be lining up to have babies in exchange for room and board. There wouldn't be a need for Gatherers. If anything, there would be so much competition to get pregnant that the wealthy would be able to pick and choose and run any kind of genetic test they want in order to narrow down the list. The Gatherers would only be needed for dangerous or fatal medical testing--the kind no one would volunteer for. These are all very interesting concepts that I hope are explored in future books.

As the story progressed, I had a lot of difficulty with Rhine. She goes on and on about being free, and, at first, that makes sense. But then we learn more about how Linden's house works, and that Vaughn is the real villain. It's made clear that Rhine will never be harmed because she's too valuable, even though others aren't so lucky. Her reaction to this is to run away instead of trying to help. That's too cowardly for my taste. Nothing else enters her mind, like searching for ways to help the others, or even obtain some freedoms. She's First Wife, which is a position of some power, but she never uses it. It's clear that Linden has no clue where Rhine came from. If he knew she had a brother, would he have let her see him? We don't know, because Rhine never tells him anything. And yet she figures out that he's as much a prisoner as she is. That's common ground for them, and motivation for her to open up and tell him everything about her background. But she doesn't, and we're not given a reason why. A good, solid plot cannot be constructed by leaving a character in the dark for no reason. We need solid motivations for her actions, or else it comes across as contrived.

There was so much I didn't believe in this story, mostly because there were no motivations for anything. Things happened because they were supposed to happen, not because they came out of the story organically. It left me feeling frustrated and unsatisfied, and I wish we had a better understanding of why the characters did the things they did.

For a chance to win an ARC of this book, go here and fill out the form.


Jessie Harrell said...

Hmm... I wanted a few more explanations too, but I didn't feel that Rhine's running away was cowardly. Jenna sacrificed so that Rhine could be free and that kept her motivated even when she thought about staying for the sake of Linden. IMO, there's something so powerful about the idea of freedom, that people are always willing to die for it.
-- My review of Wither is actually scheduled for tomorrow. :)
You do bring up some interesting plot holes that I didn't even think about!

Tabitha said...

I totally agree that the desire for freedom is incredibly powerful. I couldn't live without it, that's for sure. And I can't fault Rhine for risking so much to get it. In fact, I commend her for it.

The issue I had is that she formed a bond with her sister wives, and even with Linden to a certain extent. Enough for her to realize he's just as much a prisoner as she is. And yet she's not willing to risk anything to help them. Instead, she risks everything to save someone she hardly knows. It doesn't make sense, and (to me) that's cowardly.

Beth S. said...

Wow. You shined some light on some aspects of the story I never would have thought of. Great review!

Shana Silver said...

Have you read BUMPED? I ask because your thoughts on how girls would be lining up to get pregnant, there would be fierce competition, the wealthy would be able to pick and choose, and Gatherers would be used for genetic testing...well, that's the exact premise of BUMPED. It's a dystopian society in which only teens can get pregnant and the teens get "agents" who try to sell their womb to the wealthiest bidder, for a cut in the earnings.

BUMPED has a very different tone than WITHER, BUMPED is humorous and more of a rom com, while this is dangerous and more of a thriller.

Though they had similar premises, the execution of both was completely different. And I loved reading both!

cleemckenzie said...

Handmaid's Tale shivers without the character development and the oomph?

Thanks, Tabitha.

Tabitha said...

Beth S - thanks!

Shana - yeah, I read Bumped before Wither, and the whole teens vying to get pregnant made much more sense. Bumped had it's own plot holes, but the world setup was more believable than Wither.

Lee - yeah, that's a good analogy. :)

Kelly Hashway said...

I haven't read this yet but it's on my never ending TBR list. It's interesting that you felt there were more questions than answers. I wonder if I'll react the same way.

Tabitha said...

I hope you'll share your thoughts after you've read it!

S (Book Purring) said...

I thought Rhine's voice was so passive, it might as well have been written in third person.

I'm reading Handmaid's Tale right now, and I am even more unimpressed by Wither now. Also this book made me steer away from Bumped :( I just can't get into these types of dystopians as much as I want to read them with an open mind :(

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'll have to see what I think. Thanks for the contest.

Tabitha said...

Samita - yeah, I agree that Rhine's voice was too passive. She didn't really drive the story. She mostly reacted to things that happened, and the things she did step up to do didn't make sense to me (but that's just me). Bumped has its own problems and plot holes, but I did enjoy it more than Wither. Though if the whole concept of teens being pressured into having babies pregnancies bothers you, then Bumped probably isn't a book you'll enjoy.

Natalie - I hope you'll share your thoughts! Especially if they differ from mine...if I'm missing something, please point it out. :)