Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither is set in a future time when genetic engineering has created something of a catch-22 for the human race, they can still reproduce, but they die early, really early. Girls at 20, boys at 25. There is one last long-lived generation that is beginning to die out, some are desperately trying to find a cure, some are fighting to end human life entirely. Those that are trying to keep the human race alive (and have the money to do so) kidnap young girls and sell them into polygamous marriages.

You can see why I wanted to read this one, what a premise! This is a total page-turner. I really wanted to see where this story was going to go and how it was going to end. It is a trilogy, so be prepared to not have all your questions answered, but there was quite a bit of growth both character and plot wise.

(Scroll over to see spoilers-->
The real strength of this novel was the author's ability to really delve into how a girl, Rhine, and her fellow sister wives would react to being kidnapped and forcibly married. It isn't very pretty, the author doesn't pull any punches, but she wisely chooses to have Rhine (who is our main protagonist and is telling us the story) not consummate the marriage. Instead it is the other two sister wives who consummate the marriage and so you can deal with the sexual politics of forced marriage without having to have your main character either be raped or become some male fantasy of a sex slave won over by her captor.

Yes there is definitely Stockholm Syndrome. But the author was really smart in how she portrayed the wives. Cecily, is young, an orphan and is more than willing to be the wife. Jenna, despises it, but has already been forced to sell her body to survive and is willing to spend her last year in comfort. Rhine has been protected by her brother and desperately wants to escape and get back to him. Complicating this whole thing is that their husband truly seems to have no idea that the girls were kidnapped. He doesn't, however, seem to mind having three girls who need to please him to survive. In fact, he doesn't seem to have any idea why they wouldn't want to be there. Which is disgusting and really not all that surprising.

The only other complaint I have is that in a world where technology can produce amazing holograms everywhere and for every purpose, surely someone would have thought to bug the wives quarters. Or at least put in a Teddy-Cam. Housemaster Vaughn seemed like he was fairly competent at being an evil SOB, so frankly I'm surprised he didn't think of that.
<--End of Spoilers)

I was somewhat unwilling to believe that the girls who are sold into these marriages absolutely needed to be kidnapped (other than it is needed to set up the tension in the story). The men who buy wives are incredibly rich. It seems to me, that in a world filled with such desperation, there would be more than enough willing girls that kidnapping and buying would be unnecessary. Wouldn't it be more economical to hold a cattle call audition American Idol Style? For a great review that isn't blanked out with spoilers, head over to Bookshelves of Doom.

Another one the teen ladies are going to go crazy over. Forbidden love, desperate death sentences to outwit, and a great premise.


Book Source = committee review copy

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