Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden, #1
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: March 22nd, 2011
Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings. Editor’s recommendation.
Wither was one of those books that I was very much hyped up about. Sure, there were bad reviews and there were good reviews. But couple in the dreadfully fantastic premise with the raving good reviews and I was sold. But, I think perhaps partially because of my high expectations, it fell a bit short of fantastic. While it was good and I had trouble putting it down, I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was hoping I would be.
Of course there were those shocker moments that have you both disgusted and intrigued, but there weren’t as many as I was thinking there would be. Basically I went into this book expecting to be mega shocked and taken back. But I think because I was expecting that, it didn’t really shock me as much.
I think the entire premise of these forced polygamist marriages, and a scary world where no one lives past the age twenty-five is something that is so different and so shocking that it’s hard not to bat an eye when you read the book description. But where I think it fell short in some ways is that the situation Rhine found herself in was hardly the worst possible scenario. She’s treated like an absolute queen, and honestly while there are some definitely disturbing things going on, it really didn’t sound like such a bad setup. However, there were some things I found a bit unrealistic too:
The primary thing being that in the 10 months she was married to Linden, they kissed twice and nothing more. I realize that Linden is this good guy who is also oblivious to a lot of things, but decent all around. But, I have a hard time believing that any man who would “buy” a wife would let her get by — and even be the first wife — without having ever consummated their marriage. I don’t think she would’ve really gotten away with that. So even though I don’t think she had to get into the details, I think it would’ve felt more realistic if they did consummate their marriage, as he did with the other two wives.
Also I want to note that another review I read made a really good point about the whole having babies being the primary goal of the people in this world. If we were actually living only to the ages of 20 (for women) and 25 (for men), then would we really be worried about the next generation when we are 1) still so young and 2) have so very little time on this earth for ourselves? I think this is a bit of a hole in the premise. As humans we are very selfish creatures and I think that if we had so little time, we would not be wanting to spend it pregnant. More than likely the world would be more in a state of chaos than was depicted in this book and I don’t think people would be spending their short days worrying about re-populating the earth.
However, even though I think she kind of got it wrong there, I think she hit the nail on the head when it comes to the young girls growing up quickly. Even though the thought of such young girls actually being excited to be moms while they’re still children themselves is disturbing, I think it’s realistic. Back in the day when people had shorter life spans women would get married and have babies much sooner than we do now. It’s just the way things happened because that was the time frame they had. So in this world girls getting married and conceiving so young doesn’t seem so very unrealistic because they will only live until twenty! So by the time they’re ten they are middle-aged. While of course it’s disturbing and taboo, it was interesting to see how much faster the girls in this world grow up mentally and step into the role of a much older woman. Of course, the point I made earlier about if they would actually be caring about this to begin with stands to reason. But, I suppose there could be people on both ends of the spectrum.
In addition, it also got me thinking about a couple other things. For one it makes you appreciate how much time on this earth we do have. Although it seems like not long at times, in the Wither world I would be 5 years dead and gone — and that’s just frightening! It also brings into light the way that, as humans, we are so very much in denial of the fact that we will die one day — even though that’s obviously inevitable. There was one point in the book where someone was hysterically claiming that there just has to be an antidote before they turn the age they would die because they just couldn’t die. It really makes you think about how our mindset tends to stray to the “never me” mode. All of that stuff (like dying) can happen to other people (and does), but it won’t happen to me! So that was an interesting way to look at it. Even though the people in this world have such a short time, and a much more clearly defined time of death than we do, that doesn’t meant that their human nature will not cause them to have trouble coming to terms with that inevitable death.
Overall, this was a really good book and I enjoyed it. I didn’t like it as much as I was hoping, but that’s not to say I didn’t like it. I loved Lauren DeStefano’s writing style as well. It flowed really beautifully and was very easy to read. I’m very excited to see what happens in the books to come. I have a feeling we’ll be in a very different book with more running around and adventure in Fever, rather than being in a more slow-paced and stationary book. So I’m excited to read about that and see where everything goes!
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