Wither – Lauren DeStefano

What if you knew exactly when you would die? 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.

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Simon and Schuster
Year: 2011
Rating: 5/5

I picked up this book on sale at Basement Books in Sydney.  It was cheap. It has a pretty cover. And I had previously read a review on 25 Hour Books which caught my interest.

Despite that, I wasn't expecting too much. Nowadays the market is saturated with these types of novels. YA romances. Dystopian fiction. They are a dime-a-dozen and there is plenty to choose from. So I was expecting the run of the mill read. I was pleasantly surprised. Wither was intriguing and haunting. I couldn't put it down.

Thanks to scientific experiments in genetic engineering, people now only live until they are young adults. Once women hit 20 and men hit 25, they get sick and die a horrible death. In an effort to save the human race from extinction, the older generation which are still living from before these days, encourage their offspring to procreate before they die. All while looking for an antidote.

This has resulted in woman being treated as a commodity. Life is tough. You have to fight to survive and harsh realities face teenage girls. There is fear of being murdered, kidnapped and forced into prostitution, or kidnapped and forced to be 'a bride' in order to have babies and keep the human race going.

For Rhine, all of these options are horrifying, so to say she is unhappy when she is kidnapped and forced to marry Linden is an understatement. She joins two other girls, her sister-wives, and together they are afforded to live their short lives in luxury, on the condition they do their best to get pregnant. 

When it comes down to the crunch, this doesn't sound so bad. Rhine gets to live in a beautiful manor, she is given plenty of pretty dresses and has two other girls to spend her time with. But loss of freedom is loss of freedom no matter what the circumstances, all Rhine wants to do is escape and return to her twin brother. 

The novels focuses on her plans to do this and her growing relationship with her sister-wives, a young servant boy and her husband. Things are never as they seem and Rhine learns this the hard way. 

The big bad in this novel is Linden's father. He will stop at nothing to try and save his son. He is driven by a desire to find an antidote and will do all it takes. Even if it means murder. There sure are some creepy scenes in this novel.

Underneath the basic story DeStefano touches on some very important issues. Human trafficking, mortality rates, the sex trade, womens rights and lack of power are all issues that are very real in our world today. So although this book is fiction, it really isn't all that far from reality. If you can look past the futuristic setting and dystopian aspects, you could relate these themes to problems facing women in many different countries in our world today. 

This book, being YA, was also an easy read. I basically read it in one sitting. So this is one of those books that is great for a lazy Sunday afternoon or long journey. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction. Just be aware that this novel is focused on the characters so don't expect a great new world. I think that is the only negative about this novel, the world isn't really fleshed out. But that's ok. The characters and the issues they face are more than enough to make this book a good read.
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