Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefanoWither by Lauren DeStefano
Series: Wither #1
Also by this author: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2011-03-22
Genres: Dating & Sex, Death & Dying, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

What if you knew exactly when you’d die? The first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek 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 sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet 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 has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. 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 apparently enjoy reading about polygamy. Who’d’ve thunk it? Wither by debut author Lauren DeStefano is chock full of the polygamies and other fun things too. In DeStefano’s dystopia, cancer and several other illnesses have been eradicated. However, instead of the people turning into those I Am Legend monsters, they die young. Girls live to 20, boys live to 25. A cure has not been found for the virus that kills off youth. Due to the lifespan being drastically changed, society changes dramatically in return. Rhine, a 16 year old girl is snatched by opportunists called Gatherers to be one of House Governor Linden’s multiple brides. Will Rhine ever taste freedom again?

Wither by Lauren DeStefano is characterized by lush writing. The Florida manor which Rhine is basically held hostage feels languid. Really, it does. I mean, I can perfectly picture Linden and his three brides chilling by the pool on a hazy summer day. DeStefano’s world building is excellent and I felt a strong sense of the dystopia. I never felt lost or confused while reading. The world of holograms and child brides came through crystal clear. I am very impressed with the writing, it wasn’t slapdash insert characters in dystopia blender and see what happens.

In a society as harsh towards females as the one in Wither I felt very invested in the characters. I know sometimes it is hard to care for someone when you know they will inevitably die, as it’s clearly stated females die at 20. Despite all of the death in the air, I felt a strong sense of the three wives. I never disliked any of them either, which I thought would happen what with the whole other woman thing. If I had to sum up the sister brides with one phrase each I would say there is Jenna with her mysterious and tragic past, Cicely who is an orphan delighted with the situation and always trying to grow up too fast, and there is Rhine, our main character who wants freedom so badly. Rhine is different from her sister-wives because she knows of the outside world and had a relatively trauma-free life before being kidnapped. I enjoyed how these three girls bonded and formed attachments. In particular, I enjoyed Jenna and Rhine’s friendship.

I inhaled Wither by Lauren DeStefano. I think that if you have a passing interest in polygamy wife dynamics, dystopia, and diseases, you should check out this book. It’s well-written, full of excellent characterization, plus a different type of dystopia. At least, different from what I am used to.

Other Reviews:

Two Readers Reviews
Today’s Adventure
Word For Teens
Anna Reads

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I think this book is going to be pretty big when it’s released. I can imagine young teens screaming over it whilst the bloggers are like, ‘Dude, I read that ages ago.’ Then screaming over their own copy. XDD

  2. Ah, what to say about Wither. WANT!
    I still cannot wait to read this one 🙂 Great review, and this has a totally intriguing premise.

  3. I have a copy of this and can’t wait to read it. I loved your review. I am pretty big on issues affecting girls and women, so I think this is one that will appeal a lot to me. Hope I’m not building it up too much!

  4. I’m not a fan of dystopian novels, but this sounds really good!

  5. I can’t wait to read this one, the ARC is sitting in my pile eagerly awaiting my attention. Great review!

  6. I’m glad you liked this one! I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time now, but have been afraid it wouldn’t be as good as the cover promises. Now I have hope! 🙂

  7. Um, I think I’m just as weird as you (I don’t think you called yourself weird, but I’M calling us weird), because I enjoy reading about polygamy, too. It fascinates me, which is why this is on my to-read list. I’ve heard mixed reactions to it, though, so I guess we’ll see…

  8. I’m right there with you… I was totally fascinated by this one. I totally gulped it down — the writing was phenomenal. I think she did a great job of handling really uncomfortable topics… it made me interested in them, when usually I would completely shy away from that topic.

    • Yeah, she was excellent at that. I never got the sense that she was sensationalizing polygamy or like, child sex, as far as the wives go. She handled it with grace.

  9. I just reviewed this one today too. I enjoyed it but I thought the end was so anti-climatic. I sat there thinking there had to be more because I was like “seriously? That’s how it’s going to end?”

  10. This sounds like a great book. It’s because of the interactions between the sister wives that I love the show Big Love so I’ll probably really like this one. Just added it to my TBR list!

  11. I really enjoyed this book too! I felt a connection with all three sister wives (still such a weird concept for me) as they all brought something different to the story. And I am still lusting over the cover…

  12. i have mixed feelings on this book. whether i should by it or not. the cover is interesting enough that i’m very much tempted to own this book (all hail to unique cover and because the story is disease-y!) but the polygamy idea isn’t my cuppa.

    thanks for the review! it gives me more inside story of the book. though i’m not that interested with it, i think i’d give it a try by reading e-book one =)


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