Sunday, May 31, 2015
Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden, Book One
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published Date: 22 March 2011
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
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? (summary from Goodreads)
Though filled with lovely prose and having a compelling world, Wither left no lasting impact.
I wanted so much to love this book. The cover is gorgeous and it's been sitting on my self for longer than I'd like to admit. There's always been something about it that held me back. Until now, when I finally pushed myself to read it. I had no major expectations other than simply hoping I enjoyed it, but unfortunately not even that was met. Wither starts strong, throwing you into a heart-pounding situation, giving you history as it goes, and ensuring you feel a desperate sort of chaos. But after all that I kept waiting for Wither to go somewhere amazing and kept being severely disappointed. We get to know characters, learn more about this world, see relationships form, sure, but it just kept feeling like DeStefano was building towards something that simply never occurred. I felt like nothing happened throughout this book. I get that as the first in a series Wither is a sort of introduction, but this is too much. I never became fully invested in this novel, not in its characters or its story.
DeStefano has some beautiful writing. Her descriptions are quite stunning and played on my imagination. But that's the nicest thing I can find to say. Because while the prose is pretty, there's no substance. I just could not shake the sense that Wither was lacking. I never felt that sense of "YES", never felt swept away, as such writing should have been able to do. Rhine is a smart character and has such rebellious thoughts, but her acting on anything is few and far between. She keeps oscillating between everything! Will she stay or go? Does she like Linden or not? Should she form a bond with her sister wives or not? Will she act on finding her brother or not? Rhine spends so much time trying to actually make a decision that it's frustrating, and a big part of why this book doesn't work for me. The only thing she's ever sure of is that she distrusts and hates Linden's father, and in that we agree. But even this - so many allusions to horrifying acts and dreadful truths, but no follow through.
Likewise, Rhine's relationships with Linden and Gabriel feel like shells. Linden is too idiotic in his obliviousness to be taken seriously as a character let alone as a legitimate love interest. Gabriel I was absolutely prepared to get behind, but then he disappears for most of the rest of the book...and yet I'm meant to believe in the true emotional bond between him and Rhine? Yeah, no. This is just more trying to develop something that ultimately goes nowhere. What I did like about Wither, for the most part, is Rhine's relationship with Jenna and Cecily. I liked Jenna. There was an authenticity to her that was practically the only thing that resonated throughout this book. I kind of only tolerated Cecily. She's certainly a bright spark, but too often her attitude annoyed me. It was nice to see the bond these girls formed, in spite of their situation. It still wasn't enough to save this book from a giant "meh", though.
It's terribly cheesy of me - but Wither lives up to its title. The longer it went on the more it withered.