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.
This book stayed off my radar for quite some time. I noticed lots of book blogs talking about it, but it didn't seem like a story that would interest me. And truth be told, I judged the book by its cover and felt like it would be a dystopia that was all fluff and no substance.
Oh how wrong I was.
I was wrong about so much when it came to my initial judgment of this book.
In addition to making incorrect assumptions about the quality of the writing, I also assumed as I began to read that most of the characters in this book would be antagonistic toward Rhine. I guessed that Linden would be a jerk of a husband and that the sister wives would be unbearable to live with.
So I guess what I'm saying is that Lauren DeStafano does an amazing job at subverting assumptions. You look at the cover of this book with the fluffy dress and the fluffy hair and assume that the book is going to be less about the writing and more about the swoon-worthiness of the story. You assume that the characters will be simple rather than complex. You assume, you assume, you assume.
But then just about every assumption gets completely crushed to bits.
And you know what? I LOVED that! I loved that I had no idea what was going to happen next and that I was always guessing. I loved that all of the characters (except for Vaughn) had something redeeming about them, because your initial reaction at the beginning is that the conflict will be Rhine vs. everyone else.
This story is so much more complex than that. And the complexity is what keeps you reading.
And let me just say how much I love the name Rhine for a female protagonist. I never would have thought of Rhine as being a female name but now that I've heard it, if I ever have a daughter, I might consider that for a baby name. Just like the name Isabella exploded after Twilight came out, I wonder if the same thing will happen with Rhine.
Cover comments: Though I think the cover is stunning and I personally love this new trend of beautiful girls in pretty dresses, I think some of these books with glamorous covers are preventing guys from becoming interested in possibly reading them. Don't get me wrong, I think a lot of pretty dress covers are books that most guys wouldn't pick up anyway, but Wither is a book that I think guys would enjoy if it had been marketed differently. This does not strike me as a "girly" story, and yet the cover has lumped it into the category of chick lit with one sweeping move of a beautiful model in a frilly dress.
I look at The Hunger Games series which has a female protagonist and could have easily been targeted only toward females, but the simple black and gold cover prevented gender stereotyping, and now you have boys as well as girls reading the books in droves. I'm thinking Wither could have been a book that was of interest to both genders had they created a more gender neutral cover.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree?
Regardless of the cover, I thought this was an amazing debut for this brilliant new YA author. I hope to be reading her books for years to come!
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Publish Date: March 22, 2011 by Simon & Schuster