Thursday, 15 September 2011

Book review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

My edition: Paperback, published in 2011 by Voyager, 320 pages.

Description: Obviously, something went terribly wrong.

Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women.

To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate.

Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive.


Rating:


Mankind thought they had solved it all by creating a "super" generation cured of all diseases and weaknesses. There is only one problem: while this first generation lives on in good health their children and grandchildren die at the young age of 20 and 25 - girls and boys respectively - by an as of yet uncured virus. This leads to a global fear of the human race dying out and as such wealthy men from the first generation started kidnapping young girls to bear children. Everything to keep the population growing and in some cases to provide lab rats for finding a cure.

Twins Rhine and Rowan live in Manhattan and have their house covered in locks and traps so the orphans are unable to break in and rob them of their meager belongings and also to keep Rhine safe from the Gatherers that take the girls from their houses. Unfortunately Rhine still falls in their hands and that's where this story begins.

She's set to be one of the wives of Linden, son to first generation housemaster Vaughn. Together with Cecily and Jenna she ends up in Florida, a world full of riches and servants attending to her every need. On the surface it may look glamorous, but they're still just prisoners. That something is terribly wrong in the household is made clear very soon, and not just by the fact that 13 year-old Cecily ends up pregnant within her first month there.

Slowly but steadily Rhine uncovers the sinister truth poisoning the house and only her growing friendship with Gabriel, and surprisingly her husband Linden, keeps her determined to find a way out and back to her brother.

The world this book is set in is greatly disturbing, particularly because not once is glossed over the fact that Cecily is and acts like a young child and no one but Rhine seems to think that this little girl is being used. Yet, despite that, this was the first book in a very long time that got my full attention. It's undeniably gripping and makes the reader think about a topic such as child brides which isn't just something from a far dystopian future but also an issue still present in many countries today.

I was also fascinated by all the different characters. Loyal Rose, sombre Jenna with the sad past, drama queen Cecily, servant boy Gabriel, sweet and talented Deirdre (how I wish we'd seen more of her), and even Linden and Vaughn. While the truth behind both man's attentions was predictable from the start I was still fascinated by how their stories unfolded.

The one thing that did bother me greatly about this book is that young-adult dystopian novels seem to only come in trilogies nowadays. That wouldn't be a problem in itself if it weren't for the fact that they're also written as such and thus the book has a blatant open ending (it really just ends) while barely even touching upon what the hell is truly going on.

 I understand there being a grander storyline that will slowly develop as the series progresses, but there were so many smaller questions that needed answering but seem to have been ignored just so they can be touched upon in the next novel. A real shame, because the book is written very well in itself and doesn't need to stop this abruptly for the reader to want to pick up the next instalment.

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