by Lauren DeStefano
The Chemical Garden trilogy; book I
Oh, the cover. Shiny. Oh, the praise. Gushing. Oh, the premise. Promising. Gimme gimme gimme.
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 Expecations: Uhmm have you heard? This is supposed to be one of the best books of the year. I had pretty sky-high expectations.
Delivery: It didn't result in mind-blowing, but I wasn't sorely disappointed. Definitely enjoyed it.
Put-down-ability: I spent a day at school reading this... 2/10
With a plethora of recent futuristic novels, it’s not hard to figure out how this book has stood out against its peers, DeStefano’s prose is simply gorgeous and perfectly captures Rhine’s voice. It’s incredible how smoothly the entire book flows, it is definitely one of those reads where you don’t even notice yourself flipping the pages until you need to pee and realize you’re halfway done the book. Oh you know what I mean.
Wow, the characters are just wonderful. Rhine is a likable protagonist fully armed to the teeth with personality, motivation, strength, and intelligence. The vibrant cast of supporting characters made the book come alive, especially Rhine’s sister wives, Cecily and Jenna. The way their relationship developed in such a different environment was explored extremely well. Although they had different views on being Linden’s wife(s), I loved the way they gradually learned to trust and love each other.
And hello, Gabriel. I like you. And you there, Vaughn. I don’t like you. Oh, and Linden? Agghhh why are you so naïve???
I did had a few misgivings about the book, I feel like I was often questioning the logic behind everything. I felt this glaring question of "WHY?" as I was reading, why was the world set up the way it was? Not the science, but the society. I know that Linds has already mentioned this, and I agree—if I’m only going to live till 20 or 25, my focus wouldn’t really be having lots of babies that I know will be left motherless before they’re 10ish. Parts of the premise just seem so far-fetched.. I mean like the 'first generation' old guys and the young kids who will never live past 20/25?...okay... Having kids is such a big deal but I found it hard to wrap my head around it. Other times, I’d be so caught up in the story I wouldn’t ponder such silly ideas!
My only other major ‘ehh’ moment is the ending, it was too neat for me. I’m not looking for a Delirium-esque finale (which, let's be honest here, would have been wicked), and I’m not even upset that it’s left open-ended for the sequel. I just feel that with so much anticipation building up to this, it felt anticlimactic, rushed, and convenient.
Even with these nitpicks, there were many parts to love as well. I found the sister-wife thing strangely fascinating and loved the uniquely-crafted relationships between each character. The futuristic world wasn’t shoved into my face, it was slowly revealed with a deft hand and carefully-inserted shockers. Something as simple like 'first wives' just adds those little finishing polishes to this society. Lovely. Wanna know another lovely thing? The writing. *melts*
The praise for Wither is definitely well-deserved. Lauren DeStefano has created a vivid futuristic world that encompasses a fascinating storyline and brilliant characters.
Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable/Exceeds Expectations*
Recommended for: All YA fans, especially dystopian and sci-fi fans!
Acknowledgements: 4/5, plus an extra point because that dedication is amongst my favourites.
8.6/10 – because I definitely enjoyed this book. Despite a seemingly slower pace, DeStefano has no trouble keeping the story going as Rhine learns to navigate this new, trapped life. I had a few issues with the shaky premise, but the futuristic world** is definitely a memorable one—because these days a corrupt government and dastardly living conditions just won’t cut it, right? With the right amount of mystery, romance, and action, Wither is a great debut novel that will appeal to fans of all YA genres.
*Only because my expectations were originally really high, and well, they weren’t really “exceeded”.
**I feel I should clarify, I personally think of the premise and the world-building as two entirely different things. One is the 'foundation' itself, the other is how the foundation is written/explored.
source: won in a contest from Libraries and Young Adults (thank you!)
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