Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
(The Chemical Garden Trilogy)
 March 22nd 2011
 Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Literary Awards:
ALA Teens' Top Ten Nominee (2012)
My Rating:
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking 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 kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. 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 is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

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?
I wasn't too thrilled to start this book because I had heard some things about it that I knew I wasn't going to like. At the same time, everyone was saying how good it was, so I gave it a chance.
One thing I did like about it is that the world Stefano created is actually believable. I can actually see women and young girls being subjected to the whims of men. I can see men legally being able to snatch girls off the street, choose a few (or several) brides and killing off the ones that didn't make the cut. That is the type of world we live in already and the book may be a little more extreme but not too far from reality. It hits closer to home than 'The Hunger Games' or 'Divergent' does, actually.


 I had a ton of issues with this book. I tried to find something to like in it since everyone told me it was so good and that I was going to love it, but it never happened. I could not find one single redeeming thing to like about this book. I hated the weak-willed characters. I hated the setting. In what futuristic world are there going to be snowdrifts higher than a person's head in FLORIDA?!!! I feel as if the author didn't know the first thing about the place she set her story in. Even if this story was set 100-200 years in the future I cannot imagine Florida being a 'Winter Wonderland' or summer nights being so cold that one must wear a jacket. Ugh! I just didn't like this book at all. I already had the second and third book ready to be read after this in case I liked it but now I am pretty sure I am not going to continue this trilogy.

If your dreams consist of being locked away in a mansion, forced into marriage as long as you're being pampered, and enjoy being manipulated and and/or being beat into submission, this book is probably for you. I, on the other hand, prefer my characters, and women in general, to be a hell of a lot stronger and more self-respecting than that.

[And now for my rants about the setting]
I couldn't help but be frustrated with this book because it is set in Florida and I've lived in Florida my entire life. There was just so many outrageous moments that I ranted about while reading it. There were the parts where Rhine has to put on a jacket/sweater to go outside (and because of other bits of plot I figured that the parts with the jacket are set in the summer time.) Let me just tell you that it stays hot at night in the summer, too. It's not like the desert or anything...
Another part I ranted about was that the 'first hurricane of the season' takes place in October in this book and is a category three hurricane! Ok, maybe I can understand that in the future the weather patterns might be different, but the first hurricane of the season being in October is a bit 'out there'. Our tropical storms and hurricanes span from June/July - October/November.
Third is the mention of the leaves changing colors (Rhine mentions fingertips being as red as the falling leaves). Unless you have a Japanese Maple, the leaves here don't turn red. You might find an occasional red leaf every now and then from a specific type of tree but Florida is full of oaks and pine trees and they just turn brown between Dec. & Jan. There is no beautiful change of colors like up North. The closest I've seen is on Sycamore trees which will turn a yellow or orangish color before the leaves fall.
Worst of all, there is mention of snow. Snow? In Florida? I'm not going to say that it never happens, but when it does, it's usually sleet, and it melts before it even  touches the ground and never snows for more than maybe an hour at the very most. In almost 30 years I've only heard of it snowing in Florida twice and those were in specific places closer to Georgia. I wanted to throw this book across the room when it got to the part about the 'snow drifts being higher than her head'. A Winter Wonderland in Florida? When hell freezes over, maybe?!!!

I'm just going to pretend that the position of the equator changed due to people curing cancer in this book.

[Rant Over]


  1. I liked this book... and I will say that if you have issues with this one you will for sure have issues with the next two books. The second book has middle of the series book problems but the last book does it justice. Great review!


    1. I've considered continuing with the series even after saying I wouldn't. I'm okay with reading books with horrible circumstances like this. Usually, if I read a book like this about something (child abuse, rape, etc) that I wasn't previously aware of, it 'touches' me and I tend to like/enjoy the book. I think maybe I didn't like this book because I'm very much aware that things like this happen in the real world. I'm always willing to give a book a chance and I borrowed the 2nd and 3rd and I just can't see me NOT at least attempting to read them in the future. I think for now I'm just going to give it some time off. :)