Twitter is an amazing resource. Not only does it allow me to connect with authors and other bloggers, but it gives me an opportunity to find out about books that are creating buzz in the literary world. One such series, The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, was brought to my attention this way. Everyone was talking about Fever, the second book in the trilogy, so much so that I ran out to my local Barnes and Noble (which coincidentally is Lauren DeStefano’s local B&N also!) and picked up signed copies of book one (Wither) and book two (Fever). Fabulous decisions!
Imagine a world where the lifespan for a man is 25 years, while a woman’s is 20 years. This is the world of Wither. A world where a generation was genetically mutated in order to cure cancer. The offspring of this “perfect” generation are the ones affected by this shortened lifespan. Obviously, the social impact of this on society is enormous. Crime is prevalent, women are sold into “marriages” that are little more than outright polygamy. The population is flooded with orphans, and women are under constant pressure to produce more children to replace the shortened life-cycle of the rest of the population.
Rhine Ellery is one of these women, 16 years old, kidnapped, and newly married to a man named Linden. Although she would like to hate him, Linden loves her with all his heart, and Rhine soon becomes intrigued by the world of magic and mystery that surrounds him. To add to this, she must wade through the eccentric actions of her father-in-law, a doctor who hordes bodies in his basement to attempt to find a cure to the genetic problem. As well as living with the fickle actions of her sister wives, she also must deal with her growing feelings for a servant named Gabriel and her quest to find her twin brother Rowan. Now imagine dealing with all of this knowing that you have four years to live? Will she be able to escape her “marriage’ and get back to her home in NYC?
I LOVE dystopian novels. The worlds that are created within them are so incredibly exciting and captivating. They fascinate me because of the way issues are raised that parallel current discussions in our society. In Wither, the discussions bought to the forefront are over what kinds of cells should be used to eradicate disease as well as a discussion about genetically engineering children to be made to order. Obviously this extreme doesn’t occur in our current society, but the underlying issues of gene manipulation and gene therapy apply in both cases. These are issues that could spiral out of control very rapidly if left unchecked. DeStefano does a great job at showcasing the extremes of these discussions, presenting both pros and cons, allowing the reader to decide for themselves which side they wanted to be on.
Besides the fantastic ethical questions that DeStefano raises about the science in the novel, she creates this world that is a cross between a high-tech holograph-heavy future and a dilapidated depression-era past. It’s a unique combination and was written exquisitely and vividly. Not only are the settings incredible, but the characters are as well. Rhine is an absolute force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t let anything stop her; she’s intuitive, smart, strong, quick-witted, and highly adaptive. She finds a way to deal with any situation that she’s thrown into. As counterparts to Rhine, Linden and Gabriel are each a different side of the same coin. Where one is slightly shy and looking for comfort and love from Rhine (Linden), the other is aggressive and willing to do what he must for Rhine (Gabriel). They both care/love for Rhine in their own ways, which made it really hard for me to pick a “team” to be on. (If I HAD to choose though I think I’d pick Linden)
I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK ENOUGH. Make sure you have time when you sit down to read it…you won’t be putting it down until it’s finished.
5 out of 5 Stars
This is my sixth completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Simon and Schuster (2011)
Hardcover: 368 pages
One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Wither by Lauren DeStefano. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Friday, March 16, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Saturday, March 17, 2012. Giveaway open to residents of US and Canada only. Good luck!