Author: Lauren DeStefano
Published: 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Thanks to modern science, every newborn 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 she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
First Sentence: “I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids.”
I am still beating myself up over not reading this earlier. I bought this very soon after it came out in March, and I hadn’t read it at all until this September. I WAS INSANE. I cannot believe I didn’t read it sooner. THIS BOOK IS FANTABULOUS! I think I kept hearing about how creepy it was and how mature the themes were and so that scared me off or something. DO NOT LET YOURSELF BE SCARED OFF. While it is indeed creepy (but not in the way I thought it was going to be) and the themes are mature (but not explicit, it’s handled well), it is in no way a bad read.
Modern science created the perfect generation, immune to disease and with long life spans, and everyone thought the world was permanently changed for the better. Then problems arose with the children of this “first generation.” All males die at 25 and all women at 20. This has created millions of orphans and also business opportunities for the unscrupulous types. In order to have offspring, rich men get many wives from Gatherers who’ve taken these girls from their homes under false pretenses. Wither is the story of Rhine, who is kidnapped and “sold” with two other girls to be brides for a man named Linden. Even though Linden genuinely likes her, Rhine just wants to get back to her brother in New York. She starts planning her escape with a servant, Gabriel.
Rhine is a pretty awesome heroine. She starts out hating everyone, then begins to relax around her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily. This girl goes through heck. Being separated from her only family, trapped in a van, picked out of all the others because of her exquisite eyes (two different colors), hearing the other girls get shot, waking up in a strange place, being forced to marry someone she doesn’t know, living with a super creepy father-in-law and two sister wives (which is awkward), and all the while trying to fend off her new husband’s advances. Oh, also trying to have a secret relationship with Gabriel. Geez. Yet she manages and still tries to escape through all of it. And even as she becomes fonder of Linden, she’s smart enough to know that she doesn’t love him at all, she just feels pity for him.
Linden’s father is a total creep. He acts all “fatherly” with the girls, while he’s really scaring the bejeebers out of them. Also, he’s so dead set on saving his son from dying that he’ll do anything to find a cure. He is definitely the antagonist in this story. He is so horribly in control of everything, that it just kills you! I just wanted to toss him out to sea, he was so creepy. And Rhine’s descriptions of him don’t help. She thinks the first generation older people are kind of gross, even though her parents were first generation, and so she describes him in unpleasant terms.
Linden himself however was one complicated character! In the beginning I didn’t like him at all, but the as Rhine let herself not hate him, I didn’t hate him as much and saw how he could have been a nice guy if he’d been willing to be strong and insistent instead of so quiet and passive. His frailty was honestly really irritating as well. I just wanted him to man up!
Jenna was the best character ever. I loved her. From her obsession with the library, to her cavalier attitude about everything, I just kind of loved how she realized that this was a fantastic place to die, seeing as she only had a little over a year left, and nothing to get back to.
Cecily was annoying!! She was a little brat most of the time, but she thought of Rhine as an older sister/mother figure and always wanted to talk to her. This aspect made me like her more, and also as the novel progresses, a more vulnerable side of her is apparent, which made me like her a little more.
Gabriel was pretty cool. He was a bit flat as characters go, but maybe that was because we didn’t have much time to get to know him. I still liked him though, and thought that he and Rhine were good together, as she inspires him to be more than he is, and not settle with anything.
Little character love thrown in here! I ADORED the little helper’s the girls got. Deirdre, Adair, and Elle were so cute and lovable, and they just cared so much about their work, making the girls look amazing.
Let’s talk about what everyone is wondering. Just how explicit/mature is this book? Looking at the entire point behind the plot, forcing young girls in polygamous marriages to provide children for their husband, you know it’s going to be a little…awkward, shall I say? Well, it was much classier than I anticipated. Jenna just accepts that Linden is going to sleep with her, she was a prostitute before getting kidnapped, so to her it’s no big deal. She loves tacky paperback romance novels and lame soap operas, probably because they romanticize physical love, while she’s never experienced that. Linden’s relationship with Cecily is more gross because she’s about 13. However, all she wants is to be in this life of being Linden’s devoted wife and mother of his children. Hence, her getting pregnant. With Rhine, Linden makes advances but since she reminds him so much of his last wife who just died, he respects her more, and doesn’t push her.
To get back on the subject of Linden, he is very unaware of his wives’ feelings. When they are feeling sad, he acts like he doesn’t know what sadness is like, and almost doesn’t get why they’re sad at all. Which is strange considering he just lost his first wife, Rose, who he truly loved. I think sometimes he just doesn’t see his wives as people, he sees them as something lower. He is so naïve that he thinks that they all wanted to be wives, and were trained to be wives.
One little aspect I noticed was interesting was that if you think about the ages at which they die, 25 and 20, those are considered by most people to be the prime ages, the times you look and feel your best. The irony here is that in this story, those are the ages of death.
This is my longest review ever, but I loved everything about Wither. Some stuff was a bit far-fetched, like the rest of the world being little uninhabitable islands except for America. But overall I enjoyed the story DeStefano set up, and I CANNOT WAIT for the sequel, Fever, to come out (go check out Fever’s cover, if you haven’t!).
Sidenote: The cover is so completely gorgeous, this picture does not do it justice. In person it’s so stunning. Also, all throughout the book the beautiful borders and lines pattern like on the cover continues. The title page, chapter numbers, etc. SO PRETTY!!!
Content Warnings: I pretty much discussed everything, but sex is kind of a main theme in this book, it’s not explicit at all, but it’s discussed and implied.