Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: March 22nd 2011
Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Genres: Dating & Sex, Death & Dying, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life.
But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
First of all, let me say that this book talks about some touchy subjects such as kidnapping and polygamy. It is Young Adult and deals with them in a way that is appropriate for the age of the genre but if such things bother you, stray away from the novel. You will not like it.
I’m a pretty open person and the dynamic of this book bothered even me, the wives were practically pampered slaves. This is the new reality DeStefano creates: a disturbing dystopian novel where the men and women barely live out their teen years.
Rhine, our heroine, seems like a strong willed person but for the majority of the novel she is passive and obedient. Granted, she thinks acting this way can earn her captor’s favor, but she is not powerless. If that were me, I’d run as soon as I stepped outdoors, regardless of what the consequences might be. Anything would be better than the situation Rhine is placed in.
Predictably, earning her captor, Linden’s, trust, allows her to see a softer, more vulnerable side of him. Her pity turns to something else and we’ve got ourselves a problem. What does this sound like you? Anyone? Oh yes, Stockholm Syndrome.
The kidnapping aspect (the way the brides are acquired) was probably the most realistic quality of the entire world-people today are kidnapped for various reasons and in this future I can only imagine that the kidnapping takes place on a much grander scale. Other than that, I really didn’t think the world was well built, no real explanations or backgrounds were given.
If you like a book with a slow building romance where the plot doesn’t really matter, give WITHER a shot. If you dislike weak (the world powerless is probably more adequate) heroineswith little world building avoid this one. As I am kind of in between, this book was a noncommital three stars. I am somewhat surprised that the reviewers I usually go to not only liked, but loved, this one. Maybe WITHER just caught me on a bad day.
I’ll be reading the sequel, mostly because this novel reminds me of MATCHED, where the first book was a dystopian world with little world building and strong focus on romance. Sound familiar? (See paragraph above) But its sequel, CROSSED, was so much better it redeemed the entire series. I am hoping FEVER will follow suit. If it does not, then I will drop the series with no regrets.
What did you guys think of WITHER? Agree? Disagree?