Haunting and beautiful, Wither (Simon & Schuster) by debut author Lauren DeStefano is my first jaunt into dystopian young adult fiction. DeStefano’s futuristic world is both terrifying and fascinating—all the continents save North America have been destroyed by war, famine, chemical warfare and civil law rules the streets, despite the medical progress that has eradicated cancer and many other horrible medical conditions. While the beneficiaries of these advances live to a ripe old age, their children die in their 20’s from a horrible unknown ailment. Geneticists are struggling to find the cure as females die at age 20 and males at age 25.
It is in this world that we meet sixteen year-old Rhine Ellery, who is snatched by the Gatherers and sold as an unwilling bride along with two others to the rich young Linden Ashby. Rhine and her sister wives are captives in an elaborate mansion and expected to procreate, party, and distract young and naïve Governor Linden while his father, Housemaster Vaughn, conducts creepy medical experiments to find a cure to the disease that will claim his own son’s life in four year’s time. It is also a race against the clock for Rhine, who is trying in vain to escape this nightmare, to make her way back to her home and twin brother in New York City.
The book is full of interesting characters including Rhine’s sister wives—Rose who is already dying from the disease when Rhine and the others arrive at the Ashby mansion, seventeen year-old Jenna, and young Cecily, a mere 13 year-old. The dynamics between the sister wives and their husband are endearing, infuriating, and often touching. Jenna is wise and cool while Cecily is young and impudent. Rhine is the “kind one” whose survives by remembering her home and keeping herself emotionally and sexually from Linden, who is kind to his wives and blind to his father’s controlling evil.
Wither is a fascinating account of what the future could look like. Thousands of women and children (orphans) being sold by human traffickers each year right now, so it is not far-fetched to believe the same thing would happen in a collapse of our modern American society. This is what makes Wither so eerie; it’s not an impossible future.
Amy’s Score: 4.5/5
I received this book from Christi the Teen Librarian as part of the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop. Thank you, Christi, for the amazing read!