Published by: Simon & Schuster, March 22 2011
Genre: Young Adult
Format/pages: Hardcover 368 pages
Format read/Source: eGalley via Simon & Schuster Galley Grab
Date read: March 11 2011
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
In a dark future world, geneticists have attempted to create a perfect human race. However, their miracle cure went haywire and now the lifespan for women is only 20 years, while men live to be 25. While the geneticists try to fix this problem, crime, poverty and the number of orphaned children have skyrocketed. Young girls are auctioned off to men to breed children as part of a polygamous union. At age 16, Rhine Ellery is kidnapped from Manhattan and sold to a rich man to become his bride along with two other girls. She now lives in a mansion in Florida with her new husband Linden, and her sister wives Jenna and Cecily. Rhine is putting on a brave face but behind the scenes is concocting a getaway plan so she can return to her twin brother. Helping her along the way is servant Gabriel who she has genuine feelings for. Rhine bonds with her sister wives but is not sure whom she can trust in her situation. She is also conflicted by her feelings for her husband who seems to care for her. Rhine’s father in law is mysterious and menacing. He is researching a cure in the basement, and always looking for another body to conduct his research on. Can Rhine escape her gilded prison and return to her brother before she succumbs to the disease?
Wither is beautifully written and engaging. I found it hard stop reading, even though the premise is so disturbing. The dark tone gave me an uneasy feeling while I was anticipating the scenarios that could occur. The descriptions are vivid and it was easy to imagine all the details of the life Rhine led in the Floridian mansion.
The characters come alive with their complexities. The sister wife dynamic was interesting and I felt for each of them and their situation. They all come from different tragic upbringings, however Rhine is the one who is really motivated to escape. Cecily is comfortable at the mansion and confident that a cure will be found. Jenna despises Linden but is resigned to staying in the comforts of the mansion for the remainder of her life. Surprisingly, even Linden comes off as somewhat of a sympathetic character in this story.
Although most of the action takes place in the confines of the mansion, I felt the dystopian world building was well done. The desperation and despair of inevitable death is conveyed through the actions of the characters. There is a sense of urgency that hangs over the story because the characters are racing the clock before the deadly illness hits.
One minor complaint is that the ending felt a little rushed compared to the pace of the rest of the story. However, I’m curious to find out what happens next in the sequel.
Wither packs a punch and succeeds as a thought provoking and compelling read. I read it in one day and couldn’t put it down. Recommended for dystopian fans looking for a unique and dramatic story. Wither is the first book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy.