I didn't want it to end! It was *that* good!!
Wither has become my favourite dystopian novel. This book is a good lesson to show what can happen when scientists and geneticists try to play God: Their attempts to create a superior, disease-free race backfires when the offspring of the genetically modified individuals die prematurely, at the age of 20 years for females and 25 years for males. The first generation is determined to find a cure for the virus before the entire population is wiped out. To do so, they need more test subjects. Polygamy becomes the norm, and young girls of child-bearing age are snatched up by "Gatherers," who round the girls up to be brides for the sons of the first generation. The girls are expected to have as many children as they can to ensure the future survival of the human race. Even if a cure is not found before the brides die, their children will be studied and tested in an effort to find the antidote.
Rhine, a 16 year-old teenager, is one of the unlucky brides who have been abducted by the Gatherers. She, along with two other girls (13 year-old Cecily and 18 year-old Jenna), are brought to the estate of wealthy Housemaster Vaughn. The young ladies are to be the sister brides of Vaughn's son, 21 year old Linden, whose first wife, 20 year-old Rose, is on her deathbed. Rhine realizes that the success of her intended escape depends on her ability to gain the trust of her husband and his domineering father. She must pretend to be enamoured by her husband and complacent with her lifestyle in the lap of luxury if she has any chance at all to flee. She will stop at nothing to find her way back to her twin brother, Rowan, the only family that she has left since their parents died. Rhine finds an unlikely ally in Gabriel, who is a servant in the mansion.
I loved, loved, loved Wither! I found this to be a very dark and emotional read, because DeStefano touches on so many moral and ethical issues in the world that she has created: Genetic manipulation, polygamy, murder, kidnapping, teenage pregnancy, abuse. These are very mature topics for a YA novel.
Vaughn was the perfect villain. Although DeStefano tries to create sympathy towards Linden by painting him as a victim of his father's machinations, I could not think of him as anything but a randy young man who revelled in bedding multiple wives! I was particularly bothered by his sexual relationship with 13 year-old Cecily. That's just...wrong. I found him nearly as loathsome as his father. Rhine is an intelligent, thoughtful, and gutsy young lady who knew that she had to play the game to get what she wanted. At times, I do not know how she managed to keep up the act of devoted wife. Her strength and determination are admirable qualities.
And who could not help but love Gabriel? His innocence was heart-breaking, as well as his unswerving servitude to his masters. His moments with Rhine were so sweet, but I wanted more!
The gorgeous cover depicting Rhine as the bird in the gilded cage was perfect.
My fingers could not flip the pages of this book fast enough, and I reached the end to pause and reflect only for a moment before I dove into the next in the series, Fever.
MY RATING: 5 stars!! It was superb! I loved it, and I will likely re-read it again in the future! You should definitely read it!