Wither by Lauren DeStefano: Book Review

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano Book Review
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy, #1
Publication Date: Date
Rating: – Acceptable |

Book Summary: 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.

Book Review Overview:

  • The concept is intriguing but it just went against my morals/ethics
  • The romance felt forced and unnecessary
  • But the novel still manages to entertain and the world-building is quite fantastic

I’m surprised that WITHER by Lauren DeStefano has not stirred up more controversy. I found myself having such a hard time picking up this book; not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I did not agree entirely with this dystopian society. In Rhine’s world, humans thought they had perfected medicine. Cancer was cured. Diseases were eradicated. But something had gone wrong. Though the first generation lives full and healthy lives, their children and their children’s children are not so lucky. Women die at 20 and men die at 25. There is no cure. The world is at a chaos trying to make as many babies as possible before the human race dies off.

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano is the kind of book that will make you think hard. It will make you question your morals; it will make you question medicine and ethics. While I love a book that makes me think, WITHER by Lauren DeStefano was also a book that made me frustrated. I found it despicable that girls as young as thirteen were being carted off the streets and basically sold into prostitution. The most frustrating part of the novel is that the main character, Rhine, is unfortunately incapable of changing society. She represents only a tiny fraction of the big problem. The only thing that she can really change is her fate. She cannot find a cure for the disease, nor can she somehow stop the Gatherers from selling girls into prostitution.

However, written in the first-person narrative, I found it quite easy to put myself in Rhine’s shoes. I like how she did not just accept her fate and that she had to play her cards just right to have any chance of escaping. On the other hand, I don’t know if there’s anything particularly striking about her personality that makes her stand out against other protagonists.

It’s very easy to sympathize with Linden as a reader because he is treated as a naive little kid who just lost the love of his life. Despite the fact that Linden is able to go beyond the walls of the mansion, his freedom is severely limited by his overcontrolling father. Though I knew I should sympathize with Linden even just a tiny bit because he was duped by his own father, I still can’t find it in my heart to feel sorry for him. Why? Well, there’s that little fact that he impregnated a thirteen year old. Yes, it was one of the sister wives. Yes, the sex was consensual. But it’s quite obvious that Cecily is still a little kid. Linden has his sweet moments and he is a nice guy. But it is not okay to take advantage of an equally naive and misguided thirteen year old.

And ahem, unnecessary romance much? I just didn’t feel it with Gabriel. I honestly think the romance was completely unnecessary. If I was locked up and forced to be someone’s bride, the last thing I could possibly think about is getting it on with another guy. I didn’t really feel any chemistry between Rhine and Gabriel. I thought the romance felt a bit forced and it was something that sparked out of convenience.

I know I just spewed a bunch of negativity, but despite it all, WITHER is still a rock-solid debut from Lauren DeStefano. Though I never finished reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, WITHER by Lauren DeStefano is reminiscent of the first fifty or so pages of Handmaid’s that I had read. However, I find DeStefano’s writing style to be a lot more accessible.

Furthermore, I admit that the world-building is kind of fantastic. The fact that DeStefano has me so riled up about this society and its amoral characters says something about the writing. DeStefano has the ability to get readers striking conversation and starting debates.

And finally, I guess I have to take back what I previously said about the covers. Okay, they aren’t the most beautiful covers ever, but the cover jacket of WITHER is actually 100% relevant to the novel. Wow, imagine that.

I would definitely recommend WITHER by Lauren DeStefano to fans of dystopian novels like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Matched by Allie Condie. Just be prepared to get your sense of morals and ethics a bit tested.

Why I’m Biased: This is a hyped-up book. I also got my copy of WITHER signed by Lauren DeStefano so I feel obligated to like it.

Other Book Reviews:
21 Pages
Book Purring
Diary of a Bibliophile
Pass the Chiclets

About the Author

Lauren DeStefano (pronounced: de STEFF ano) graduated Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT in 2007. Her debut novel, WITHER, the first in The Chemical Garden Trilogy, published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, is out now.


Find the Author

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  1. I thought about reading this one, because of the brilliant video she recently uploaded, but to be honest, it doesn’t sound like a book I’d love.. I’m no big Dystopian reader, I OFTEN have problems with moral standards in books, and if the romantic parts feel unnecessary.. well. *grin*

    Maybe I’ll borrow it or something. The worldbuilding sounds like something I might like. :>

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