Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
My Review: I was so thrilled to read this. No, literally, I was jumping up and down for joy when I found it in my mailbox. Not only does it have the most to die for cover EVER, but it is probably the most original piece of YA dystopian fiction since Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Trilogy. Yep, that’s right, THAT good.
The story in one word? Fan-freakin-tabulous! Yes I had to make up a word to accurately describe the level of epicness that is this book. Deal with it. Maybe I’m a pessimist and a total science nerd, but I can see this happening in the near future. The fact that I did my sophomore research paper on cloning probably influences that opinion as well, since I know the basics for all the science and a whole lot of ethical debates. A lot of readers will probably think that they had it coming for playing God. While I agree in a very round about sort of way, I thought they erred in another way. Life on earth is a system of checks and balances. Referencing another Westerfeld book here, but Peeps explains it very well. Every living animal on this earth comes to a natural equilibrium with its environment. The existence of parasites prevents soil erosion, allows crops to survive, and even keeps our own bodies healthy. The same can be said for genetics. If a species becomes too populous then bottle necking occurs and the vast majority of a species dies out, allowing for more diverse genetics. The future generations in Wither failed to understand that balance. They cured Cancer, birth defects, and immune deficiencies. Nature just reacted accordingly. In the face of a 100% healthy generation, nature reacted with an incurable disease. Epic no? Sorry for the mini science rant. My inner nerd just had to break through.
The world the author creates is so realistic and so detailed you can’t help but feel like you are in the novel. While the world really hasn’t changed that much from modern time (well aside from the fact that North America is the only continent left) society has changed irrevocably. Desperate to continue the species, young girls are forced into marriages often at only the age of 13. Prostitution is equally as wide spread. Being a woman, I definitely wouldn’t want to live in this world. Women’s social freedom has gone back to medieval times. Women are property, and there is no such thing as equal rights. Despite the obvious downsides, I still found this world intriguing. Rhine is so cut off from it however that we really only catch it in glimpses.
While I really admired Rhine’s character and her determination to reunite with her brother, I couldn’t help but feel that she lacked some fire. It’s not like she was dull, she just wasn’t anything really special. I feel like the Rhine before she was captured was a lot more intriguing. She makes sure that she puts on a façade for Linden, and I felt like the reader ran into a wall as well. While I was sympathetic for her and was rooting her on, I just can’t say that I was emotionally connected to her. I didn’t get attached, and while I will praise this novel to high heaven, that was a bit of a disappointment. I’m hoping with the second one we’ll get to see more of the real Rhine.
As much as I loved the story, it lacked some luster as well. As creative and mind blowing as it is, it lacked major tension and suspense. Gabriel suddenly disappears?! Oh don’t worry a week will just pass by and Rhine’s concern for him kind of gets to sit on the back burner. The novel was very well paced. I’m not denying that. I’d actually probably say that it was excellently paced. Events moved at a nice speed and it wasn’t too rushed and it didn’t drag. I would have just liked for a little more drama. There was no adrenaline! I didn’t once have an “OMG! AH! That can’t happen!” moment. Not. Once. A bit let down? Definitely.
While I really did love this book, it has one fault. It has the ground works for a potentially to die for story, yet is missing that fundamental spark that makes a good novel mind-blowing. I was really impressed by the author’s imagination and highly commend her for it. There really is nothing else like it. I can’t wait for the next one. I don’t simply want to like these books, I want to adore them. Guess I’ll just have to see with the next one.