Wither by Lauren DeStefano

by Kay Fraser

Wither is one of those books that you will remember weeks after you’ve read it. Maybe it’s the gorgeous packaging you can’t get enough of, maybe it’s the beautiful writing of Lauren DeStefano, or maybe it’s the deep descriptions of grand lifestyles, amazing dresses, and lush hair dos. Whatever the magic is, Wither is the kind of book that will remain in the back of your head and that you will compare to many others this upcoming year.

The world in Wither is very different from the one we know. It’s set in the future, yet the book has a Post Reconstruction feel to it.  The world that Wither develops is one where regular people get factory jobs, one where orphans are 80% of the population, and one where the life expectancy is reduced to 20 for females and 25 for males.

In this world built by Lauren DeStefano, cancer was cured by geneticists; no sickness could harm humanity. That is, until the Virus came around. The Virus that attacks anyone and everyone between the ages of 20 and 25.

In a desperate attempt to keep the human population increasing, high class families have adopted polygamy, a lifestyle in which the house lord takes various girls as wives. Polygamy is a way to procreate and to expand the odds of humanity prevailing in the harsh world.

Rhine is the daughter of geneticists who were killed in a terrible uprising against genetic research, due to a belief that geneticists were responsible for causing the Virus. Since their parents death, Rhine and her twin bother, Ronan, live by hiding in their basement most of the time and working to barely make a living. The basement is the safest place in the house under the circumstances. People are desperate and looking for anything they can steal and sell for money, goods, food, belongings, and even other people.

Yes, in the Wither world people are traded and bought like goods. Orphans are sold as servants to rich families. Some orphans are just happy to leave the orphanages and poverty; some hate the loss of freedom. And then there is sale of girls. Rhine has heard stories of the Gatherers, stories of girls taken from their houses in their sleep or girls that are walking down the streets, only to be drugged and dumped into the back of a truck to be sold as wives to the rich. Ronan wouldn’t allow that to happen. He and Rhine take turns sleeping; he watches her, always keeping her safe on the streets.

Until that day.

The day Rhine was taken by those men, the Gatherers.

The day she found herself locked in the back of a van with a bunch of other girls her age.  It was dark, scary; girls cried in terror and Rhine wasn’t sure if she was going to make it out of there. They took her out of the van in the cold. Made her stand in line with the rest of them.  A man walked down the line, inspecting the merchandise. Rhine kept her eyes looking straight at him. Her eyes gave her away as a collectable. She was sold that night with two other girls. The three were to become new wives. They’d lose their freedom, their identities, their histories, and their families.

What would you do to be free? To what extent would you go to remain yourself? To not lose your essence, but yet stay alive?

Wither was one of the most interesting reads I’ve had yet this year. There is romance that molds and shapes the story slowly. Relationships develop naturally between the characters, keeping you on the edge of what might happen between them. I highly recommend this book for all lovers of the genre. If you’re looking for an original concept you haven’t heard before, this might be your book.  Yes, it’s a dystopian book like many others releasing this year, but it certainly has a different twist. Well worth it to look into this one.

DeStefano’s Wither will be released on March 22, 2011. I can’t wait to get my hardcover copy of this gorgeous book, and to hear what’s next for the Chemical Garden Trilogy. One book down, two more to read.

Kay Fraser is a book designer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, residing in Minneapolis. Her dark secret? She is bilingual. When she’s not designing, reading, writing, over-drinking coffee, or chasing around her two little monsters, she’s on Twitter at @kaymfraser or blogging at designcomma.com.

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