There are so many things to like about Wither, it is hard for me to pick just one. One of the amazing things about it is THE COVER. I don’t even know exactly what it is that I like about it, but it has something to do with the colors for sure. The colors, the geometry, the dress!
Wither is a young adult dystopian novel by Lauren DeStefano forthcoming from Simon & Schuster (March 2011). And one of the fantastic things about the novel is its easy comparison with The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood’s novel is one of amazing balance and splendid storytelling and it was a joy to read a book that reminded me so much of it without trying to be the exact same book. Wither, while playing on a lot of themes that are similar to contemporary dystopian novels, felt completely unique to me. The novel deals with very intense and dark issues but DeStefano writes with such a delicate hand the book is verging on addictive. I wanted to know what will happen next and felt a connection with the future of the main character, Rhine.
Rhine lives in a world where women die at the age of 20. Women live with a death sentence; they are aware of their mortality for practically as long as they are aware of themselves. This concept by itself is completely terrifying to me and Lauren DeStefano does such a great job of making the story approachable and human. I think it could be too easy for readers to end up not connecting with the characters because of what they knew about their futures. Polygamy is common place as family try to access as many possible options to achieve an heir in a short time allotment.
A fantastic element of Wither is the series name. The Chemical Garden caught my attention from the moment I first heard it. I like it more than the title of the book and it instantly got my mind swirling around the possibilities of this future world. Technology is one of my favorite elements of dystopia and the series name connected with those interests.
Lauren DeStefano is fantastic because she is from my home state. No matter where I live Connecticut will always have the quality of home and it is neat to find an author of exactly the type of book I want to be reading and have them be from the same place as me. Compared to Utah, Connecticut is like one big home town! I was excited to read Wither because I really felt like being from around the same area we would have a similar view of the world. I don’t know if that is really the case, but it is definitely interesting to think about. She also has a quirky, fun sense of humor and I highly recommend following her on Twitter. @LaurenDeStefano
Rhine is taken to a mansion to be the wife of a young man, Linden. In DeStefano’s world women life to be 20 and men live to be 25. Wither is the story of Rhine’s existence within the constraints of this future world. As she explores her new surrounds we find out more about the history of the world she lives in. One fantastic thing about Rhine is that I don’t feel like she is weak and mindless like many of the female characters that have been trending in young adult literature lately. I feel like Rhine is very deliberate in her actions and I really appreciate that.
And a fantastic line from page 172 in the novel:
“And I see it, far, far in the distance. Like a whisper. Like a timid little suggestion. “
A friend of mine suggested that in Wither there is far too much of nothing happening. But to me this is all a fantastic part of the world building. "And I wonder if the wives’ floor is the only part of the house without a staircase, and if there’s a fire and the elevators stop working, Linden’s brides will be burned to a crisp. We’re easy to replace, after all” (p. 60). This quote speaks perfectly to Rhine’s place in the world. She feels trapped and she feels helpless. This existence for Rhine seems hopeless. Yet, we have hope. For hope is an essential part of the success of a dystopian novel. Without hope there is no reason to push through the darkness, the tragedy, and the despair. DeStefano does a great job being able to balance out this story, letting it move forward, while at the same time Rhine is going nowhere.
And now in fantastic summation Wither is a unique addition to the realm of young adult dystopia. The care that is taken with the writing is essential to the story’s progression. Although the writing is very good, it did leave me wanting more out of the flow and word choice. And I felt that the ending was really, really rushed and a bit forced. But those things are not fantastic enough to worry about! Young adult dystopias had taken a down turn for me and Wither really restored my faith in their ability to be unique and go beyond the inner thrashing on teen angst that can exist as easily outside the dystopian world as within. I would like to thank Lauren for writing a story I connected with and really embraced the meaning of dystopian fiction.