Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Wither

Title: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
See it on Goodreads!

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.

My thoughts:
The summary of the book did not summarize the actual book itself. I really expected the book to focus a lot more on the world itself, and less about the polygamist marriage. In fact, the overarching story of their lives being short seemed to take a backseat to the polygamist lifestyle--as if the author wanted to tell a story about polygamy but needed to modernize the story in order to do it.

But this is not a negative review. I absolutely loved this book and if you haven't already bought it, you need to get it.

I'm going to go spoiler-heavy, so you've been warned. Skip this if you don't wanna know.

The author's style of prose was incredible. I mean, second-to-none. If I can ever write like this, I will die a very happy woman. She has a talent--a pure gift--that that is truly quite breathtaking. She can set a scene with a few simple, carefully selected words. And she's not afraid to throw in some large words to do it, undermining the YA audience's intelligence level.

Her craft of characters was both brilliant and disappointing. (Again, this is not a negative review. Buy this book.) She had extremely strong characters. You liked each of them. You understood each of their motivations. I would have liked to see more of the hidden story/motivation behind the big bad guy, but since this is part of a series, I guess the author couldn't give away too much in book one.

A lot was hinted at, but nothing really resolved, and I found that incredibly disappointing. It wasn't even not-resolved in a cliffhanger sort of way, it just left you with a vague, unfinished feeling that makes you both want to immediately pick up the next book and find out what's going on, and kind of irritated at the same time. If I had the second book in front of me, I probably wouldn't feel this way. For example, you know the big bad guy is a big bad guy, but you kind of wonder if he's really not the big bad guy everyone makes him out to be. You know he's doing horrible things to everyone, but you never really find out what. Things we'll find out in the next book? Probably. Irritating to not resolve in book one? Yes.

Summary of the book:
Rhine (what kind of name is Rhine? Really?) is kidnapped and forced into a polygamist marriage with two other girls: Jenna and Cecily. Their husband Linden is already married to a woman who is already twenty and therefore dying, since all girls die at the age of twenty and all men at the age of twenty-five. His father is fabulously wealthy, and so Linden can afford these fancy new wives. Rhine strikes up a friendship with the dying Rose, who tells Rhine that she's going to become Linden's new favorite when Rose dies. Meanwhile, Linden's father, Vaughn, is a mysterious figure in the background, a doctor at a hospital "trying to find a cure" to fix the disease wiping out humanity.

Rose dies, and little Cecily, who is not even fourteen, becomes pregnant shortly after Linden marries the three girls. Rhine starts to fall for the servant Gabriel (BE STILL MY HEART--GABRIEL IS EPIC AWESOMENESS AND WE WILL DISCUSS HIM AT LENGTH LATER), and mourns her twin brother, who she was stolen from. She also starts to strike up a friendship with her sister wives, including Jenna, whose sisters were shot and killed in the van the girls were transported in when they weren't selected to be Linden's brides. (Jenna is a freaking badass, y'all. Love Jenna.) Rhine and Gabriel are stuck in the basement, where they see Rose's corpse wheeled by on a gurney and see some men discussing it, but the book resolves without finding out to what end.

Soon Rhine finds herself developing a fondness for Linden, who of course was oblivious to the plight the girls had suffered to become his wives--he thought they had wanted to become wives and the ones he didn't select were sent back to their orphanages or to their homes and not murdered or sold into prostitution--but she still doesn't abandon her hope of wanting to escape.

Eventually Rhine and Gabriel escape together, and that's sadly how the book ends, without anything getting resolved.

Memorable quotes (mostly courtesy of Gabriel--seriously, he was SO awesome... serious, funny, witty, sweet... I might have melted a few times...):

She looks to me for help, but the only game I know is the one where my brother and I set noise traps in the kitchen and try to survive the night intact. And when I was taken by Gatherers, I sort of lost.
I laughed out loud at this.

“No,” I say. “He won’t know I’m gone. He doesn’t notice me.”
“He notices you,” Gabriel says. I look at him, unbelieving, but he has turned his blue eyes away from me.
I might have swooned. Gabriel. Oh Gabriel.

The homesickness that comes with my brother’s memory is not so bad. Not with Gabriel for company and a tray of pancakes and the June Bean he’s hidden in the napkin.
Another super cute, super sweet moment. GABRIEL. I LOVE YOU!

A party in the orange grove. The pain on Linden’s face is immediate. I am unwavering. He has cost me more pain than I will ever be able to repay.
Rhine is a freaking badass right here.

Jenna looks at her lap, and her lip quirks in what I think will be a smile or a laugh, but her eyes well with tears and her voice is broken when she says, “My sisters were in that van.”
I might have teared up a little here.

Her smile is her revenge.
Jenna rocked this freaking hardcore, and I absolutely love the author for this line. I got chills.

[Rhine and Gabriel see a movie marquee for an all-night zombie-fest]
He says, “What’s a zombie?”
Oh Gabriel. You're so cute.

“This is what Manhattan is like,” I whisper to him.
“People crawl out of their graves in Manhattan?”

I might have LOL'd again.

“Think you can steer us out of this place on one of those boats?” I say.
“Oh, absolutely.”
“You sure?” I say.
“Well, if I’m wrong, I guess we die.”
Have I mentioned how much I love Gabriel? That dry wit just killed me...

Now. If you haven't bought this book already... Why not?!


deezeeamanda said...

So glad you posted a blog about this book because before you did, I hadn't heard of it!
I think I really liked it! I am looking forward to the next book and am totally agreeing that there will need to be some closure on several things!!!