Sunday, July 10, 2011

Orange Blossoms, Hurricanes, and Brides: Review of Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The Chemical Garden, #1
Lauren DeStefano
March 2011
YA Dystopian

The cover shows Rhine's beauty quickly fading
as she approaches the age of 20 and death.
The bird in the fancy cage represents her gilded prison.

Wither is an excellent YA novel in the dystopian genre- it's less violent than The Hunger Games, more serious than Bumped, and more glamorous than Delirium (note: I enjoyed all of those books, but hopefully that gives you a frame of reference).  A 16-year-old girl named Rhine is kidnapped and forced to marry a kind but strange man because his wife and love is dying at only 20.  Rhine will die at 20 also, and her new husband at 25, unless a cure is found for the "genetic virus" that kills all young people at these ages.  Rhine's wedding also belongs to two other girls, one much younger and one older.  This first book in the series chronicles these sister-wives as they get to know one another, their new husband, and his creepy father.  They live in a beautiful mansion with lovely gardens and a fancy pool, but to Rhine it is just a prison keeping her from her beloved twin brother.

I picked this book up at the library because of lots of positive reviews- and I certainly enjoyed it.  Most other dystopian fiction I have read is about people struggling to fulfill their daily needs, but Wither examines the future from a comfortable albeit restrictive sitting room.  Both views are important for the whole story, but with the harsh conditions that are a reality for some of my students, I find reading about luxury to be more fun.  I expect that #2, Fever (next February?), will be quite different from Wither in setting, but I hope that the romantic, feminine tone will continue at least in part.

Rhine is a beautiful character- she has two different colored eyes, and gives off an air of pride and virtue.  Rhine's new husband, Linden, reminds me of Ashley Wilkes- wussy and sheltered, but his father has President Snow written all over him... CREEPER.  EW.  I kind of like Linden, despite his lack of a spine- perhaps it's his father's fault that he's so dependent on home.  His visions of the perfect home provide a window into his grief over the loss of his first wife, Rose, and the life he wanted them to have.  Gabriel is a servant in the home, and I'm never quite sure why a male servant is allowed to tend to these imprisoned wives.  He's not my type, but apparently he's quite cute, so why can't he tend the gardens or the automobiles or do any job other than directly serving the wives in their rooms?  That's just asking for trouble.

My favorite thing about this book is how beautiful it was- the lovely imagery, the soft language and tragic pictures of the other wives, contrasted with Rhine's anger.  This beauty is bittersweet because of both the pain surrounding it and its false nature- most of it is human-controlled, hence the series name "The Chemical Garden."  I'm excited for Fever and the adventure it promises.  I would recommend this book to any YA reader who is aware that it's not as edgy as Divergent and The Hunger Games- Rhine is a different sort of heroine, but I'm expecting big things from her in the future!


  1. I had mixed feelings about this one, but I do agree with you about the beautiful imagery and bittersweetness. Also, you raise a good point about Gabriel - really, why was he allowed to be a servant to the wives?

  2. I'm very excited to read this one. It looks like a type of book that I'll really like!

  3. I adored Wither! I thought it was great, and I'm glad to see someone else liked it too. Like you pointed out, I think Fever will be interesting in its contrast to Wither.

    I'm a new follower from the blog hop by the way! And I have a giveaway ending this Thursday for She Walks in Beauty if you're interested!