Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2011

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings. Editor's recommendation.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This was one of my favorite books of 2011 for so many reasons...  I read this back in July and I really had to allow it to digest before I could write a review; it's one of those books that is so thought-provoking and well done, that I was having difficulty articulating my reasons for loving it.  Since I don't have any complaints about this book, I guess I will just bullet-point my reasons for loving it (in no particular order):
  • The Cover~ Is it not beautiful?  The coloring, the photography, even the font evoke the proper emotions to fit this novel. I haven't seen such a story-appropriate cover in awhile.
  • The Writing~ Lauren DeStefano knows how to use words!  She builds the story on so many levels; I felt like I was actually there when I was reading this. If you follow her on  twitter, you know that she is very real and her down-to-earth personality bleeds onto the pages.  Add to that expert pacing and an ending that was a cliffhanger, yet tied up nicely enough to not leave me pissed, and I'm a happy girl.
  • The Characters~ They became my friends and enemies because DeStefano digs deep into who they are.  Rhine is an amazing, yet underrated heroine.  She's not a kickass fighter like Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Katsa (Graceling), but she is kickass in spirit.  She's so smart and determined.  I just felt bad for Linden; I feel like he should be hated, but how can you?  Daddy Dearest, Vaughn was just so wrong in every way.  I hated him, which was exactly how I was supposed to feel.  Gabriel, Jenna, Rose, and Cecily were all just as well done.  I had special love for Jenna.  She was so strong.  My point is,  all of the characters, even the most minor (Cook), were well written enough that I felt a connection.  Not many authors manage that...
  • The Story~ I love dystopia; it's been my favorite genre since I fell in love with George Orwell's books 15 years ago.  It's getting played out since The Hunger Games though.  The market is flooded and it's very hit or miss.  I was worried that I wouldn't like this before I read it because I was getting to the point where they were all kind of the same.  No need!  The story was so original, and dare I say, plausible?  I went to school for genetics and I can honestly say that even 12 years ago when I was studying in this amazing field, that I was blown away by the research and sometimes questionable advances being made.  Very scary to think...
  • The World Building~ Oh my goodness!  Bravo to Lauren DeStefano in this area.  Her descriptions of the world the characters lived in blew me away.  It only added to the conflict in my mind over whether Rhine really had it so bad.  She started in one world, and forced or not, ended up in a drastically different, and arguably better world.  The descriptions made the argument (that I still struggle with) possible.
So there you have it.  A review that is much longer than I usually write.  I often have trouble going into this much depth without spoilers, but in this case, I had to try (and I'm so glad I succeeded).  This book deserves it!  I cannot wait for Fever, the second book in The Chemical Garden trilogy, to release on February 21st.  I promise that I will drop whatever I'm reading to start reading it right away.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★+ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is one that is really difficult to rate for grade level.  The wives are basically brought by force to Linden to breed, and with that there is obviously talk of sex, but it's more clinical than anything.  In that respect, I would say 6th grade and up.  However, the concepts behind it are mature and I don't know that a middle schooler would get as much out of it as a high school aged reader.  In that respect, I would say 9th grade and up.  


  1. Sounds like a good book! I always appreciate your grade level ratings. Thanks!

  2. Great review!! I adored this book as well, especially Jenna!

    The Cait Files

  3. I've only heard whispers about this book, so I'm glad to see your review here. A positive review means I'm adding it to my "to read" list. Thanks!

  4. I just got this book from Borders and I can't wait to read it. The cover is fantastic, I've heard amazing things about Lauren DeStefano's writing, and I'm excited to see how Rhine fares as a heroine. I'll admit that I'm not a fan of dystopia (I like it well enough, but you're right - it's everywhere these days, and a lot of the time, it's not even done well, and seeing the same sorts of books fail in the same way over and over again is becoming more than disappointing), but I think this will be one of my few exceptions. Will be reading this STAT. Thanks for the review!

  5. I also loved this book. I put off reading it because of all the mixed reviews. It turned out to be one of my favorites.

  6. Great review! I put of reading this one because of the mixed rewiews, but I'm really glad I read it. It is one of my favorites! And the cover is gorgeous.

  7. I've literally only recently read this one, and I agree with everything you've said.

    I've read a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but I actually really enjoyed it, and found the world fairly realistic and frightening - more or less what a dystopian world should be!


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