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on July 28, 2016
I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews about Lauren Destefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, so I put off reading it for a little while. But I was looking for a comfort read recently and Wither called to me, so I decided to give it a shot and make my own decisions. I’m really glad I did because I loved this book. A lot. What is wrong with the rest of you? :)

Where do I even start. Rhine is the kind of character I love. Strong willed, determined, witty, everything I love about a female character. I’m not really surprised by that though, Destefano writes great leading characters. It was the rest of the characters that took me by surprise. I was so infatuated with Gabriel, I adored Rhine’s dependent Deirdre and her sister wives Jenna and Cecily were a strange mix of everything I would be feeling in their situations.

And Linden, well he was the most surprising of all. I wanted to hate him, I wanted to be sickened by him and his actions, but it was kind of hard to. He was charming, he seemed genuinely grieved by the loss of his first wife and he seemed to genuinely care about these new wives. It was really hard to hate him outright, until you sat down and thought about the situation. In this, I think I could easily relate to Rhine. But at the same time, how stupid was he to not have any idea what was happening to these girls? Was he really that blinded by his father or was he blissfully ignorant to the situation because it worked in his favour? That part made me want to hate him.

Despite my enjoyment, I went back and forth on the plot a bit. Sometimes the points that drove the story seemed a bit flimsy to me, like the theories for breeding more children seemed only loosely put together, not to mention how girls were being snatched and basically enslaved without anyone blinking an eye about it. There seemed to be some big holes about the logistics and how realistic things were and it wasn’t totally anything new, but overall I actually really enjoyed it. It had a futuristic Handmaids Tale vibe to it and I thought that was really interesting.

I gobbled this book up quite quickly and can’t even wait for my hardcopies of the following books to arrive so I can continue this story. That said, I don’t know where the story can possibly go and whether there really needed to be a trilogy, but I’ll read them anyway because this reminded me of everything I’ve been missing about these kinds of novels.

Originally posted on citygirlscapes.com
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"Wither" an imaginative and innovative dystopian novel is set in the future after a catastrophic global disruption has left North America the only survivor but plagued by a genetic virus that kills girls at age twenty and males at twenty-five. To ensure humanity's continued existence girls are kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriages as early as age 13 or if rejected are swallowed up by prostitution rings, or disappear never to be heard of again.

In this dark, forbidding atmosphere of uncertainty Rhine Ellery a hardworking sixteen year old living with her brother Rowan in New York is abducted and sold to a House Governor in Florida. Far from home and hating the loss of her freedom she vows to escape her forced marriage to Linden Ashley , but all is not what it seems in the wealthy mansion where all her needs are catered to, and secrets abound.

With two sister wives, one resigned to her fate and the other eager to fulfill her responsibility , Rhine must play a role if she hopes to see her brother again. But her escape plan goes astray not only when a hurricane threatens the mansion but as she begins to fall for her captor.

With stories and flashbacks to her past in New York Rhine's discontent grows as she searches for an escape route from a mansion that seems impregnable. Tension and suspense continually build when Rhine pursues a friendship with Gabriel, a young servant willing to go with her, while making an enemy of Linden's father a scientist searching for a cure for the virus. Mystery thrives in a mansion where Housemaster Vaughn conducts his research in the basement, the body of Linden's former wife was dissected and her baby disappeared. The plot is emotionally-charged as Rhine faces threats, intimidation, betrayal and a man she's determined not to love. Quickly and smoothly events unfold that keep you on the edge of your seat as they progress to a surprising cliff-hanger at the end.

Like the plot the characters are fascinating, their personalities complex with all their flaws and faults. Rhine (Ellery) Ashley is guarded, reluctant to reveal her past to her sister wives and Linden. She's compassionate and kind, winning not only the approval of the servants but forging friendships with the other wives while playing a deceptive role to win a place in Linden's heart. Yet for all her dishonesty and unwillingness to care for her husband she finds herself drawn to the House Governor. Linden Ashley a talented architect is reclusive, gentle but fragile, shattered by the death of his wife Rose. Struggling to balance his duty to his other two wives and his love for Rhine, he struggles to win her heart. Although an attraction begins to develop between Rhine and Linden she's determined to ignore it, preferring the attentions of the abused but goodnatured servant Gabriel.

Included among a host of well-developed and unforgettable characters that add passion and energy to the drama is the self-absorbed, impatient and sassy thirteen year old Cecily; the timid and sullen sister wife Jenna who's haunted by the murder of her sisters; Linden's demanding but terminally ill former wife Rose; and the enigmatic and dangerous Housemaster Vaughn.

I enjoyed "Wither" the first book in "The Chemical Garden" series, the danger to Rhine escalating as she looks for escape and a way home to her brother.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 13, 2012
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!
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on January 18, 2012
I really wanted to love this book. There was a part of me that in every page turn was hoping to find out more information. I wanted to know more about what went on in the basement and what happened in all the characters past, more than just the simple background history we are given about Rhine, the main character.
It was a very slow read, in 50 pages you are still dealing with the same issue and nothing unexpected happens. I want to read the next book just to find out what happens to the characters, but truth be told I probably won't just because I found it so slow paced.
I wish it was just as captivating as the cover!
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on August 16, 2014
The ideas this book are based on are what drove me to both start and finish it. I have a soft spot for dystopian books – books that are based in a distant or not-to-distant future of what humanity could become if things go awry. In Wither, the future we're presented with is a medical one – where females die at the age of 20 and males at the age of 25 due to over genetic engineering.

Wither, in actuality, was a whole lot more dull than it promised to be. Aside from the dull-ness, there were major problems in the plot that bothered and nagged at me the entire time I was reading.

For example; the plot of the first book (it's a trilogy) is entirely based on our protagonist being “snatched” by a group of people who sell women into bride-hood. Essentially, women are forced, against their will to become the polygamist wives of rich men who provide them with everything they could want in way of fancy clothes and all the food they can eat, in a world where orphans die of hunger.

My main issue is this: If the world is so horrible, with young orphans starving and sleeping on the streets – why in the world do women have to be snatched off of the street to become the brides of wealthy men? It's even mentioned (small spoiler) at one point in the book that the man thinks his brides were trained in some sort of bride-house to become the best wives they can be to a future husband. Nope – women are grabbed from their lives and forced into it. Why? I honestly don't understand the purpose of it, given the world we're introduced to. Why are there not places that train brides to become wives who birth future generations?

My second issue is the protagonist, Rhine. She has absolutely zero personality. The book is pushed onwards simply by her desire to escape after being captured and forced into marriage with a wealthy young man. Escape, escape, escape. What does she love? Tell me more in depth about her! She was a blank slate that needed to be filled in. The book relies only on the dystopian aspects and not the character aspect of our protagonist. It's strange, though, because her two sister wives have very en-point personalities. One is angry and angsty, the other is a spoiled brat. Rhine, however, wants to escape to get back to her brother.

My third issue, and perhaps a much more minor one, is the cover art. The reason Rhine was snatched is because of her eyes – she has heterochromia, meaning one eye is a different colour than the other. The cover, however, shows what I can only imagine is our protagonist, with her eyes closed. Closed. Yes – the whole reason, seemingly, that this adventure takes place, is not shown on the cover. Her eyes could have been distant, but open; or focused specifically on them – but, no, they're closed.

I won't be reading the other two books in this series (unless I find them ridiculously cheap) as the thoughts in the bag of my mind, nagging at me, just never stopped. If you're a fan of the Dystopian genre, I would still skip this one.
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In Rhine's world society has been plagued with a deadly virus that kills women at the age of twenty years old, and women at the age of twenty-five. The population has decreased so much that teenage girls are taken at will by Gatherers to be sold to men who will take in a polygamous marriage. Rhine is one of these wives, a sister wife to Cecily and Jenna. Blond, and beautiful her eyes marked with one brown eye and one blue eye, she struggles to keep herself alive and sane while she is held prisoner at the mansion. She befriends a servant boy named Gabriel and together they plot to escape.

This world is so bleak and depressing! Imagine no cure for a virus that automatically kills you! To have strength as Rhine does makes up for most of this slow paced novel. The relationships between the sister wives were just beautiful and it felt real. All of them being imprisoned in such a place where the rest of the world is bleak and hungry made their situation less frightening.

I completely adore Rhine's strength of character. Her strong will to get out and find her brother is what moved the story along. The writing is beautiful and Lauren DeStefano is a great writer. I look forward to reading Fever.

Rating 3/5

Quotes

"Love is natural. Even the human race can't claim to be natural anymore."'Rhine (119)
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on April 28, 2011
It is difficult and a little intimidating to review a book that you've heard a lot about, especially a lot of good things. I did enjoy reading this book, but not as much as many of the other reviewers. The book was largely in Rhine's head, with her thinking of escape plans, figuring out the world she now found herself in, and coming to terms with her feelings. Because she has to be so secretive, she does not talk to many people. It was interesting to watch Rhine grow and gain understanding and even wavering, while remaining single minded in her bid for freedom. Lauren DeStefano also wrote some beautiful, vivid descriptions of the world, some horrifying in their scope.

For me, however, Wither got a little repetitive. There were some thoughts and ideas that were stated over and over, for example, that Rhine's different eyes had saved her life. There were similar things with her thoughts of her brother and her past life, as well as Rhine's feelings about her current life. It made it feel as if the story were not progressing very fast at times.

I also wanted to know more about the world and how it had decayed to the state it was in- a lot was supplied was implied - and found I had a lot of questions . How did the gatherers (those who stole the girls) become OK, was there no higher authority? Why, if girls were so important for reproduction, hadn't they become a valuable commodity who were paid for handsomely and honoured rather than being cheap and disposable? Wouldn't teenagers become valuable as caregivers for babies who had been orphaned? How did the economy run at all?

What was interesting in Wither is the number of questions it brings up and I can envision some great book club meetings or essays being written on these topics. The big one is freedom vs slavery, especially a hard free live vs luxurious slavery: Rhine's life before she was kidnapped was brutally hard and dangerous, with the threat of kidnapping, people breaking into her house, unemployment, poor quality food, desperate orphans stealing food, but she was free. After she was kidnapped, Rhine had a life of luxury with servants, beautiful clothes, excellent food, and going to parties, but she was not free. A vivid dichotomy was set up here. Another question is should humans interfere anymore genetically or let the human race die out? This gets into more questions about bio-engineering, in general. There is also polygamous marriage and duty and even arranged marriage. I'm sure there are other themes as well, but these are the obvious ones.

Overall, I did like Wither, but found it frustrating at the same time. It will be interesting to see where Lauren DeStefano takes this story in the next book.
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on March 29, 2011
Well, as I peruse the pages of Goodreads and some of my favorite Book Review Blogs, I find there are plenty of mixed views toward Wither; many glowing and gushing, many harsh and some even bordering on a wee but nasty. While admittedly this is my first Dystopian YA reading experience, I was rather pleased and walked away from this adventure feeling thoroughly entertained.

I believe that many readers will find DeStefano's debut a well written, imaginative and thought provoking experience complete with entirely believable futuristic scenarios and an endearing cast of characters. Rhine is a courageous character whose morals and beliefs tell her that she must fight for her freedom. Yet, her intelligence tells her that she must endure, she must wait to take action when the time is right. And, amongst all the bravery and wisdom, Rhine must also deal with her heart. She struggles with the ever-present inner battles of caring versus hatred for Linden and her quilt over what the repercussions of her departure might mean to Cecily, the youngest of Rhine's 2 sister wives.

While there are some rather sensitive topics touched upon within the pages of Wither, such as kidnapping, murder, and forcible confinement, these issues are conveyed in a manner that readers will find rather gentle and quite suited to the premise of the story.

DeStefano shares with us a rather unique view of our future. One that, if man doesn't stop "messing with nature", I believe readers will find quite conceivable.
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Reason for Reading: I love dystopian novels and this sounded fantastic.

And fantastic it was! Absolutely fantastic! The first book in a trilogy hasn't excited me this much since The Hunger Games (not that this is anything like it). A brutal future world where an entire generation has been artificially conceived but they have cured disease, no more cancer, no more AIDS, no more heart disease. What this first generation didn't know, until 20 years later, though was that their own naturally conceived children were ticking time bombs. Females now only live until 20 years of age, and males to the ripe old age of 25 then they succumb to "the virus". For seventy years now the first generation, who also have conquered the rapidness of aging, have been trying to find a cure for their children but they have separated into two factions by this time: those who want to find a cure, and the pro-naturalists who say it's time to let nature take its course and want to stop the breeding of infants for the purpose of experimenting on them.

It is in this world that Rhine is kidnapped along with a van full of other girls by a wealthy father looking for wives for his son. The son chooses three and they are forced to marry the 20yo and become his wives. In their captivity the sister wives, form a unique bond with each other. Each comes from a different background and situation, dealing with their kidnapping/captivity and forced marriage in different ways. Rhine is the only one with a will to escape.

Wonderful. wonderful. wonderful. Right from the first chapter I was addicted to this story. It swept me up into a horrible possible future that is brutal and repugnant. The young either live in poverty as third generation orphans or as rich socialites in decadence with no moral values as life is literally too short to waste on virtues. The ethical questions give one much thought, especially about finding a cure vs. experiments on babies or the question of how terrible is it to kidnap street women and starving orphans so they live the rest of a short life in opulence versus leaving their freedom behind? My enjoyment of a dystopian novel always hinges on whether I believe the major situation is possible. While I don't believe that our current society is headed towards perfecting a genetically altered artificially conceived disease free generation. I do, however, believe the current dwindling replacement population crises will have many profound repercussions on the future generations even if something is done immediately, which is hardly likely. Women are already kidnapped for use in prostitution in today's world, it is hardly unrealistic to think they would be kidnapped for use as wives and breeders by the wealthy in this futuristic world with no religion or moral values.

DeStephano has created a fascinating concept with many layers, and even added a tiny touch of romance. This is a riveting book and I can hardly wait for the next book in the trilogy to be published.
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on March 23, 2011
Post third world war, planet earth is merely a shade of its original beauty. Only North America survived man's destruction, leaving small inhabitable islands where flourish continents used to be. But it's not the only damage the human race caused. In hopes of creating perfect human beings, an entire generation of children were created in labs, the First Generation. Little did they know though, this generation's children were all dying before adulthood. Boys and girls found their graves at respectively 25 and 20 years old. In hopes of giving humanity a second breath, many researchers are working on a cure, while young girls are kidnapped and sold to wealthy families to become wives in polygamous marriage and bear child. Rhine ends up in one of those marriage, and will do everything she can to break free and get back to her twin brother Rowan.

Dystopian isn't my usual kind of read but I really enjoyed the world Lauren created. I love how she paid attention to details by adding a touch of new technology yet respecting the step back humanity suffered after the war. Her world was introduce smoothly to the readers while it could've been heavy, so kudos to the debut author. Her descriptions were also very vivid, which made it extremely easy to imagine the world Rhine lives in.

The characters were very believable even though I didn't always support their decisions. Rhine is a brilliant girl who was content with her modest life in Manhattan with her twin brother and finds herself parachuted in an artificial world of luxury. She will take many risks in hopes of freedom. I though she was very interesting, along with her sister wives Jenna (18 years old, which I adored) and Cecily (13, which I didn't understand) but my favorite characters was Linden, their husband. He is such a fragile man and so oblivious to what's around him. He is as much a victim in this story as his unwilling wives. I felt pity for this broken-hearted young man who is barely more than his father's puppet. I'd also like to mention Gabriel, a domestic who's such a sweet heart. He made me smile a couple of times.

Call me prude, but one thing bothered me in this book. Sex is never described but only revered to, and the 13 years old Cecily gets pregnant from 20 years old Linden. While I understand the world they live in, it still left me uncomfortable, so I though I'd mention it. Again, sex is never described, so it's not of poor taste, it's a personal preference. Also, Lauren makes a big deal about Rhine having eyes of two different colors, but it was somewhat irrelevant to the story, will it gain a meaning in the following book?

The conclusion was good but not very satisfying for me. I won't explain why as I don't want to spoil everything. I'll only say that a chapter was closed and I was hoping to see the consequences, but I'll have to wait for the next book to quench my thirst.

Wither is overall a good debut for author Lauren DeStefano and I can't wait to see what she'll come up with next!
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