Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Book: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: 22 Mar 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Summary: 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.

Review: On their own, Rhine and her twin brother must take any chance at making money that they can. Rhine, however, faces the very real threat of the Gatherers, men who kidnap teen girls to sell to rich young men as wives. The Gatherers exist because science and genetic perfection have brought disastrous consequences, men dying at twenty-five and woman dying at twenty. Rhine finds herself taken by the Gatherers and sold along with two other sister wives to Linden. Her fate is marriage to a man she hates and her sole purpose in life is now producing children and entertaining Linden. As terrible as that is, the women who weren't selected as wives faced a much worse fate, being shot to death and then discarded like trash. Rhine cannot accept her new life even if Linden treats her well and seems to love her. She needs to escape, she needs to return to her brother.
Rhine was a wonderfully unique narrator. Her voice was very odd but after a little adjusting, I loved it. It did slow down my reading, however, not that I minded. The way Rhine thought and spoke was just so distinctive, it's one of the things that really stuck out to me while I read the book. When so many YA books are replicas of others, a fresh voice is something to truly appreciate.
It's been a while since a book totally wrecked havoc on my emotions. One moment I was loathing someone or something then a few paragraphs later I was suddenly questioning what I'd previously felt. It was like a tilt-a-whirl ride, I never knew how I felt or what was going to happen and even when the ride ended, I was still experiencing the emotional confusion. Good confusion though. I loved that DeStefano was able to draw those emotions and reactions from me. Usually I'm set in my opinions and feelings about characters at at least the halfway point of the book but while reading Wither, I was constantly adapting and changing my perceptions.
Wither was so much more creepy than I'd expected. It was creepy as hell at certain points. I enjoyed the creepiness but there were a few things that I honestly found just a little too disturbing for my tastes (mainly the young pregnancy/polygamy, so just personal preference aspects not anything gore/violent/etc related). I did think that everything worked very nicely with the dystopian world created though. That said, I wouldn't recommend Wither as a starting place for people looking to try dystopian. I think it's a wonderful representation of the genre and a fantastic book but for readers unaccustomed to the genre, I think they might not enjoy Wither as much.
Wither isn't just about the story and Rhine's struggle to be set free. It's about relationships and that little gray area between right and wrong. Wither draws you so far into the book that you'll be left feeling the aftershock of the experience days later.

Quotes & Thoughts as I Read:
  • Will I become a murdered reject? Sold into prostitution? These things have happened. There's only one other option. I could become a bride. I've seen them on television, reluctant yet beautiful teenage brides, on the arm of a wealthy man who is approaching the lethal age of twenty-five. Rhine's voice is really different from what I'm used to, I like it though.
  • So there we were, both asleep. I awoke with a blade to my throat, looking into the eyes of a man I did not know. I made a small sound, not even a whimper, but that was all it took for my brother to jolt back to consciousness, gun at the ready. I like that we get a look at her life before she was taken. Life is pretty sucky in this dystopia on both ends.
  • “You'll see the world again. I can tell. He's going to fall in love with you. And if you'd just listen to me, you'd realize you're going to be his favorite once I'm dead.” She mentions her death so casually. “He'll take you anywhere you want to go.” “Not anywhere,” I say. “Not home.” Is Rhine the only normal one?! I like Rose but she creeps me out and Cecily is disgusting. Rhine needs to stop superimposing her own emotions onto Cecily and realize what a freakin' disgusting creep she is.
  • The question hangs heavy on my tongue: Jenna, what has Housemaster Vaughn done to you? But I'm too afraid of the answer. Totally wasn't expecting the lead up to this line. I thought I had Jenna pegged too. PS, the first ten or so times I read 'housemaster' my odd little mind saw it as 'horsemaster' and I was like 'wtf?! This doesn't make sense. Are they comparing the girls to broodmares?'
  • He's laughing a little. The helmet falls. He squeezes me, says, “What are you doing?” “I thought you were dead,” I say into his shirt. “I thought you were dead, I thought you were dead.” I can't imagine how any of the girls manage to have clear skin with all the chaos and stress. When I was a teen just thinking about homework was enough to make me breakout.

Rating: 4½ Bites
Book Trailer

28 comments:

  1. I ve been wanting to read this book for a while now, was in BN and was going to get it, literally had it in my hands and also had Enclave in the other. I got Enclave. So glad you reviewed this one though, some of your thoughts are kinda how I felt about certain parts of Gone by Micheal Grant and parts of Enclave by Ann Aguirre. But I still love both books soooo much :) Nice review. I like the quotes section especially.

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  2. @Book Addictions by Christina
    I've read Gone but not Enclave, it's on my wishlist though. Both Gone and Wither totally blew my mind. I wasn't expecting what I got when I began either book. YA has come such a long way since even a few years ago.
    Thank you :) I write down quotes in hopes of making the review easier to write, writing is not my forte. One day a friend of mine was reading my notes and said she'd prefer that type of 'review' to an real review so I started including them in my posts!

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  3. Great review! I absolutely loved this book, but the characters put me through quite the roller coaster of emotions. One minute I hated them, the next I loved them and it was just all very complex, haha. This is definitely a book that I still constantly think about.

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  4. @Stephanie (PoetrytoProse.com)
    I've never had such emotional whiplash after reading a book as I did with Wither, especially with Linden and Cecily. I HATED Cecily. I thought she was a selfish creep and just couldn't fathom her happiness with the situation and pregnancy. And then suddenly we find out what she had to do with Jenna after she was finally becoming bearable!! Ugh, and that isn't even the ending point because she tries to make amends and really thought she was doing the right thing. My feelings for Linden are even more of a mess... Haha, I loved the book too though. Can't wait to see what Fever brings.

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  5. This book looks good! It's now on my To Read list!

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  6. Awesome! I'd love to read this but I simply just don't have the money to buy it yet. Plus I have dozens of books sitting on my shelves that I still have to read. I'm slowly getting to them!
    I'm glad you enjoyed this so much. Makes me excited for when I do get to read it! ^_^

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  7. It's look awesome! :) I really want to read this book but I haven't good a time :/

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  8. I really enjoyed this one as well, it's absolutely amazing and a totally original dystopian!

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  9. Great review. I have had Wither on my wishlist for a while. Maybe it's time to buy it and read it! >_<

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  10. I was mildly interested in this book before I read your review but now I can't wait to read it! I liked some of the thoughts you mentioned in your review. I'm always looking for a good, thought provoking book!

    susanw28@mindspring.com

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  11. I think this sounds like it will be a very good book. I enjoyed reading your post and review.

    sstrode at scrtc dot com

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  12. I feel a little horrible for having not read this book as yet since it's obviously so good and has received raving reviews all round. I loved this review and I especially appreciated the quotes and thoughts you had as you read. Reading that bit alone, has motivated me to pick up Wither next. Thanks for the great review:)

    sarah.setar@gmail.com

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  13. Ha! I just finished reading (and reviewing) this one too! I had very similar reactions and thoughts to the book as yours.

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  14. This sounds really good I can't wait to read it!

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  15. As much as I love dystopian stories, I'm weary of all these 'girls must have sex/be married/have children by 16' books that have popped up. However, those quotes kind of drew me in. Now I'm interested.

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  16. Birthday is coming up, I can't wait to get this with b-day cash!

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  17. Great review. It makes me want to rush out and pick up a copy.

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  18. I've been hearing such great things about this book and the cover is fantastic. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it as well and hopefully I'll get my hands on a copy soon.

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  19. I really enjoyed this book as well! :) I agree that some aspects were a little creepy... even the beginning kind of freaked me out. Plus, how creepy was Housemaster Vaughn?! (LOL, horsemaster...) Can't wait to read Fever :) Great review!

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  20. great review- convinced me to give it another shot- I had started to read it a few months ago and couldnt get into it- but will try it again!

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  21. Fantastic review! I loved this one as well, I thought Rhine was a fantastic narrator too! Wither was one of my favourite dystopias of the year!

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  22. Thanks for the review. I would like to read this book someday. It really looks interesting :)

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  23. This was a good read. You review was spot on. :)

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  24. Nice review! Your rating matched what I would have gave the book. I totally enjoyed "Wither". It's premise was unlike anything I've ever read. I was sucked into the story immediately. Also, I loved the way DeStefano wrote. I rarely read a book where I don't have to read the lines multiply times to understand what is being said. I was so surprised by the flow of her writing because I consumed everything so easily. The only complaint I had with the book is that I thought the character development could have better, with the exception of Rhine. Nonetheless, I SO look forward to "Fever". However, I am somewhat disapointed in the cover. Wither's cover was gorgeous, and Fever's is nice, but she appears drugged to me and the white background is nowhere appealing as the first. They should of went with color.

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  25. I'm a little hesitant to read this book because I kinda didn't like the idea behind it. But with your review on how it gives you this emotional confusion made me think twice, since I love books that can give you such weird emotions that sometimes its hard to react upon it.
    Great Review! I'll check this book out once again.

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  26. Reading this has crossed my mind before, but I'm not really a fan of dystopian. After reading your review and now that I'm reading The Hunger Games, my mind is changing. Your review has made me think again. I will be picking this up at my local library on Monday!

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  27. I was a little hesitant about this book at first. The summaries didn't sound as interesting as some of the other Dystopian books I've heard of. But after reading your review, I'll give it a try. Could you also do a review of the second book, Fever? Thanks :)

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