December 4, 2012

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: March 22nd, 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster BFYR
Page Count: 385
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★
In the not-too-distant future, genetic engineering has turned every newborn into a ticking time bomb: Males die at age twenty-five, and females die at age twenty. While scientists seek a miracle antidote, young girls are routinely kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When sixteen-year-old Rhine is taken, she enters a world of wealth and privilege that both entices everything she ever wanted--except freedom.

Soon it becomes clear that not everyone in her new husband's home is how they appear. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to escape... before her time runs out.

[Summary Source: Book Jacket]

There are a lot of dystopian novels out there. A lot of them are really good. This is one of those really good ones.

Let's break this down:

If I was born in Rhine's generation, I would be dead. A large majority of my friends would be dead. THINK ABOUT THAT and try not to freak out.

You can't? Okay good, you're human. Read on, human person.

And then, beyond all of this talk about freaky human cures for ailments that end up causing the worst ailment yet, there's theft, kidnap, human trafficking, child prostitution and a whole host of other terrible, awful things. Not to mention, America's all that's left. Bye bye every other continent. Peace out ice caps. Catch you later world. Granted, there's a technical issue here (I know you've all seen Day After Tomorrow--Dennis Quaid and the beautiful Jake Gyllenhaal covered this topic adequately. Feel free to re-watch for a refresher). But the thing is, I'm not so irked by the world building holes here. I'm mostly interested in the fact that there's this one generation that's well into it's 70s and then a bunch of orphaned ticking-time-bomb-kids running around trying to survive even though they KNOW they have an expiration date. That's really gotta mess with a person's head, don't you think?

And then there's Rhine Ellery. She's the girl who really jumps off the page--the girl you want to pay attention to.

Rhine is one of those characters who seems just as real as anyone else in the world. Even though I'm sure her life perspective is VERY different from mine, I still get where she's coming from. I get why she needs to get back to her brother. It totally follows that she's angry about being kidnapped and forced to marry some guy. I can even understand why she begins to make friends with the people in the mansion. Everything she does makes sense. Which is great, because if you want a story to really work, the main character has to work as well.

But it's not just Rhine who's super real-feeling and make-sensical. Lauren DeStefano is such an incredible writer that every single character she creates is somehow totally relatable. I want what all of them want, even though most of their desires contradict one another. And it's because all of these characters make sense that the plot around Rhine moves with the fluidity it does. So not only does Lauren DeStefano manage to create a wonderfully complex main character to push this wickedly warped dystopian trilogy forward, she's also managed to build a supporting cast that fleshes out the plot around Rhine, creating a truly amazing story worth telling (even if the world building isn't entirely sound).

The long and short of it?

Plot: Creeptastic (in a GOOD way)
World Building: Not so great
Character Development: Stellar
Prose: Drool-worthy
Would I Recommend This Book?: Yes. Well, maybe not to those who get stuck on the world building details, but to everyone else? Yes.

**You guys should all follow Lauren DeStefano on Twitter. For every follow she gets until 2013, she's going to donate $1 to her local animal shelter--up to $2,000! If I didn't already follow her, I assure you I'd be on that like yesterday.**