Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Synopsis: "By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?"

Title: Wither
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi YA
Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Pages: 358
Ages: 14+
My Rating: 5 stars
One Word: *gasp*
Fave Quote(s):
“There's nothing here to say good-bye to. There's no dancing girl. No mischievous smile. She's gone, off with her sisters, broken free, escaped. And if she were here now, she would say, 'Go'" (345).

"I open my mouth to, I don't know, apologize again maybe. But he takes my face in his hands and presses his forehead to mine. And he's so close that I can feel his little warm breaths, and all I know is that when he draws his next breath, I want to get sucked in.
Our lips touch, almost as soft as not touching at all. Then they press closer to each other, draw back uncertainly, touch again. There is warmth shooting through my broken body where there should be pain, and I put my arms around the back of his neck and I hold on to him. I hold on because you never know in this place when something good will be taken away" (186).

I'm still processing the ingenuity and creativity of this book. I was sucked in from the first page and could not put it down since then.

The story revolves around this futuristic- dystopian society where everyone dies around 20-25 due to a (as always) scientific malfunction, and basically life is ruined in America with an overload of orphans, rebellions, etc. Only the rich actually have a "good" life, but it's filled with the illusion of the past: holograms of sea life, old library books, mini golf, etc. Rhine, the main character, is caught by a "Gatherer" who essentially takes women as wives for rich men. She has to fake her way through her new husband, Governor Linden who is absolutely clueless, and the eerie father of his, Housemaster Vaughn, who has bad intentions. The only true people in the building are the attendant, Gabriel, the domestic, Deirdre, and Rhine's sister wives, Jenna and Cecily. Rhine wants to escape as soon as she's caught, but she learns strange things while she's there and she and her sister wives are restricted from the outside.

I was expecting the plot to be like all of the other unoriginal sci-fi stories, and in a way it was, but I can tell you that it was so much more. I've started to veer away from the cold hands of the sci-fi dystopian novel, but for this book I couldn't release from its grasp. This tragic alternate world with an inevitable doomed life was too enticing for my denial. I just had to read it. The connection Rhine makes with her sister wives really made this novel more interesting. Rhine has a true sister relationship with them, with the bickering, love, and empathy for each other. Jenna and Cecily were my favorite characters, although they both had tragic experiences and were very different from each other.

Of all the characters in the novel, Linden was the hardest one to figure out. I mean, how could he be so stupid. I can't even call myself oblivious (although I usually am) compared to him. His father is the creepiest, most bi-polar (or maybe just psychopathic) character ever. Gabriel was the most interesting, however. As one of the attendants of the mansion, Rhine could easily connect with him and I couldn't take my eyes off the page whenever I read about him. I loved Rhine's relationship with Gabriel because it was so pure and real, when they're talking about life outside and finding ways to talk to each other without the eyes of Housemaster Vaughn. Their relationship also progresses nicely and doesn't go right to "I love you's" like most YA books nowadays. Jenna was my favorite considering her cleverness, and her ability to fake her way through anything. I actually liked Cecily because she was so naïve at first until she started learning what was really going on...

While Rhine is stuck in this mansion, she feels the heartbreaking homesickness of missing her brother, yet she's pulled to stay due to certain complications. She's confused between how to help herself stay true to the outside world and living on this fake life with Linden and her sister wives. This book pulled me in and the events that occurred in the mansion had me gasping, crying, or laughing.


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