Wither by Lauren DeStefano
In future America thanks to genetic manipulation that went wrong, people have a very short and specific lifetime. Women live until they are 20, men until they are 25. Society has collapsed with science turning toward trying to save the human race. In this world, girls are stolen from the streets and kidnapped to become wives and keep the population up. Rhine is a girl who is taken and survives the selection process. Now she is forced into a polygamous marriage to a very wealthy man. She is trapped with her sister wives in a mansion; her cage is beautiful and sumptuous but it is still a cage. Rhine tries to think only of her escape, but it is made difficult as she begins to form relationships with her fellow prisoners, a handsome servant, and her husband. This book explores uncertainty, love, desperation and strength.
DeStefano’s writing is what elevates this book above other dystopian fantasies. Her phrasing is subtle and natural, occasionally turning poetic to make a stronger point or present an important event. Her plotting is masterful. In a book where much of the time is spent waiting for action, the story never lags or disappoints. It is a book of quiet desperation not only for Rhine but for the entire society.
The world building here is particularly exquisite. There is just enough of the science background given to make the story work. The real beauty is in the exploration of the effects of the situation, the revealing of a society in decay, the division of wealth and poverty, the allure of a life at ease in a world like this. It all adds up to a very powerful statement about our current society.
The characterizations are also beautifully done. From Rhine, the brave heroine who tells the story in first person present tense, allowing readers to figure out what is happening right along with her. The sister wives are as different from one another as can be, each of them unique and human, each a character worthy of her own book. Then there is the complexity of the husband, Linden, a man who could have been portrayed as a monster. Instead he is a man with a background that formed him, a love for others, and who is haunted by loss.
Ideal for fans of dystopian science fiction, this unique book will have readers unable to put it down and begging to know when the next book in the series is coming out. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
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