Wither is Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, and it’s freakin’ creepy. Basically in the far off future where only North America has survived, scientists have come up with a way to create a perfect race. No longer is the world worrying about cancer or illness and they live much longer. The bad news is that their children and their children’s children got the short end of the stick. Although no illness, there is “the virus” that kills boys off at 25, while the girls die at 20. Geneticists are trying their hardest to find the cure to remedy this situation.
Not only do these young adults worry about dying too soon, many young girls are kidnapped and sold to wealthy families to become sister wives and basically breeders for their husbands. Rhine is a 16-year-old girl who gets tricked and sold into one such arrangement. Rhine and her twin brother Rowen have heterochromia, one brown eye and one blue, it is because of these eyes that she is not killed but sold for a higher price while other girls get slaughtered in a van.
Her new husband Linden takes two other brides Jenna (18) and Cecily (13, and the biggest brat you ever did see.) Linden is way wealthy and the wives are pampered, and although Rhine resents him she wants him to trust her so she can eventually plan an escape to get back to her brother. We find out there is actually more to Linden then we originally think, and Rhine can’t really hate him. His father, Housemaster Vaughn (creepy, evil scientist) is desperate to find the antidote to save his son and is hording corpses in the basement. Then there is Gabriel who is a servant at the household and becomes one of Rhine’s true friends.
You know that feeling when you watch futuristic movies and you lose interest cause you got lost somewhere? (I’m still trying to get past the first fifteen minutes, Minority Report…) Well, this isn’t like that. It’s futuristic without being confusing. In this new world, I would have already been dead, and I don’t know how I would fare being sold and living with sister wives. I mean life is like a huge polygamist party, with husbands getting the better end of the deal there. I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels, but this one really creeped me out. The whole sister wives thing is what’s so creepy and to know you’re living with Dr. Frankenstein and your oblivious husband is no treat.
One by one Rhine witnesses people she cares about wither (ironically not from old age), and we as a reader feel uncertain whether Rhine herself will live or die. Despite being in such an icky situation Rhine is not a whiny self-pitying person. She is like a chess master, trying to stay one step ahead and she is not so blindly in love that she abandons hope of seeing her brother. She is realistic and her personality does not change. She has a goal and no matter what she is going to see her brother again.
That being said, I’m still totally Team Linden.