Rating: 5 stars
Pub date: 22 March 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Format: hardcover via library
Status: Book one of The Chemical Garden series
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?
Wither was recommended to me by the lovely Mary, Mary Had a Little Book Blog. While waiting for Perfect Ruin to come in at the library, I decided to read Wither. I started it on audiotape while I ran errands. I was also mulling over which book I was going to read next. I just finished Waterfell and was suffering from a bit of a book hangover.
The tone of Wither just gripped me. It was fantastic. Lauren did an incredible job. It’s hard to fathom a world where the people die so young. Females die at the age of 20 and males die at the age of 25. I would be dead already on that time line. My husband too. It’s something that humbles you in a way. Especially as I’m writing this. (originally written in my journal On our way to my hubby’s cousin’s funeral. Just 26 years old. In today’s world, someone that age shouldn’t die. It’s tragic when it happens. Not expected and unavoidable like in Rhine’s world.
There is a glimmer of hope in Rhine’s world, though. There’s the rumour of an antidote being researched all through the country. Some are optimistic, others try to stop it. They believe the human race is doomed and should just die out the way it’s going.
Our narrator, Rhine, is 16 years old. Four short years away from certain death. She’s just been taken away from home. She’s with a group of girls being inspected by a wealthy man. She suspects they are being inspected to be selected to become brides. Three of the girls are selected. Those not selected —-
Rhine is escorted into the back of a car with the other three girls. She wakes up in the lap of luxury, but is dismayed that she is nowhere near her childhood home of Manhattan. She’s in Florida. She’s immediately consumed with the desire to plot an escape. She makes friends with an attendant, Gabriel. After he tends to her, she decides to see if the door to her room is locked. She’s surprised to see that it is not. Rhine decides to explore to see if she can find a way to escape. She comes across Rose’s room. Later she’s asked to come back. She knows Rose is dying and assumes she is the House Governor’s wife. Despite knowing Rose is facing a quickly approaching death, they become friends.
Rhine meets the other two girls she was take with on their wedding day. They are married by age. Jenna is the last bride at 18 and Cecily is the first bride at 13. They are married to House Governor Linden Ashby.
Jenna is withdrawn. She’s resigned herself to her fate and would rather die in luxury than in squalor. She’s beautiful, but is destroyed over the deaths of her sisters. She and Rhine eventually become friends.
Cecily is completely ecstatic about her new life. She grew up in an orphanage. She proves to be a very ignorant child. She believes that this is the best thing that could ever have happened to her.
Rose eventually succumbs to the virus and it impacts Rhine more than she thought it would. It absolutely crushes the girls’ husband, Linden. Once Rose is gone, he begins to dote on his new wives. Cecily is soon pregnant.
The longer Rhine is trapped in the mansion, the stronger her desire is to escape. She tries to escape during a hurricane and is nearly killed. Gabriel is reassigned to a different part of the mansion and she fears he is dead. With Jenna’s help, she and Gabriel make a plan to escape.
Jenna suddenly falls ill before her 20th birthday and dies from the virus. Rhine is more determined than ever to escape. She and Gabriel finally manage to make their escape.
I really loved Wither. The narrator on the audiotape did a fantastic job. Lauren hit a homerun with her debut book! Even though it was fascinating to visit Rhine’s world, it definitely is not a world I would choose to live in!