In a bleak futuristic world, the ambitions of science to create genetically perfect people have caused successive generations to have drastically reduced life spans. Men can’t expect to live past the age of twenty five, and women don’t survive past twenty. In order to ensure the survival of the human race, Gatherers kidnap young girls and sell them to wealthy men. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is barely making ends meet living with her twin brother, but they’re making do. But against her will, she is taken and forced into a polygamous marriage. Despite the new luxuries lavished upon her, Rhine does not love her husband and can only think of escape, back to her brother and the life she once had. But Rhine’s plans are complicated as she comes to understand her husband and her sister wives and develops a dangerous relationship with a servant. There is too much at stake, but Rhine is willing to risk anything to be free again before she dies here.
Wither encompasses one of the more chilling dystopian settings I believe I’ve ever encountered. DeStefano’s depiction of the worst possible side effect of modern medicine, the creation of a frightening and so far incurable disease that prevents anyone from aging beyond their twenties, is incredibly vivid despite its bleakness and makes for an irresistible backdrop to Rhine’s story. Even though the nature of the setting is quite dramatic, I liked how DeStefano does not overdo her characters and plot. It is definitely easy to get lost in Rhine’s problems, but I attribute this to the fact that most of the plot twists are subtly done. I was not completely swept away with this story, but I was enchanted, in an eerie way, by the ideas behind it. I feel that this world has a lot of potential, and I can’t wait to see which way the story goes from here.
Readers who enjoyed The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, and Delirium by Lauren Oliver will not want to miss Wither.
Review copy from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab