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Wither (Chemical Garden, Book One), by Lauren DeStefano

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Genre: YA Dystopia
Pages: 356 pages
Rating: a very confused 2 to 4 stars
Read ARC in November, 2010

Summary (ganked from 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 limted time she has left.

My thoughts: For me, Wither is a tough book to review. It has a lot of strong points: the quiet, evocative prose; the complex relationships among the three sister wives and how they change; the slow build of tension as Rhine begins to suspect Housemaster Vaughn (Linden's father) of all sorts of terrible deeds in the name of his research; Vaughn's pleasant creepiness; the cover design, which I can't decide if I like but definitely draws the eye. However, readers who like their dystopias to make sense should be frustrated by the underdeveloped, unexplored world-building, which basically became a deal-breaker for me. The premise is a movie-blockbuster idea: it has a big concept, it's stylish, it sounds like it will be salacious (but it actually isn't, and I give props to DeStefano for not making it read like a reality show like "Sister Wives" or whatever), and it doesn't make a lick of sense when you really think about it. Not a lick of sense, people!

(The usual: plot spoilers and lengthy overthinking here at my journal.)
Tags: category: young adult, xxx author last name: a-h
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