Monday, June 27, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither: The Chemical Garden Trilogy 01
Author: Lauren DeStefano
ISBN: 9781442409057
Price: $17.99

No one wants to grow old—at least, no one in our world. In Lauren DeStefano’s Wither, growing old is a dream. No one grows old. Due to complications of genetic engineering, no males live past the age of twenty-five. No females live past twenty. This is the world that sixteen year old Rhine Ellery lives in.
Kidnapped and taken from her twin brother, Rhine finds herself in a world she never imagined. To try and cope with a dying population, teenage girls are frequently kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriages. Now living with her new husband Linden, who not only seems to genuinely love her but also appears somewhat clueless as to how she was brought into his life, Rhine finds herself torn between two worlds. In her married life, she has her sister wives: the willful and stubborn Jenna, the naïve and bubbly Cecily, and Linden’s beautiful and dying first wife, Rose. It’s a life of wealth and luxury, and it’s a life that brings her to Gabriel, a servant boy. If she can get away from Linden and his household, Rhine can try to find her brother and hope to live her last years in peace. If she stays, she must face Linden and his obsessive father who is determined to find a cure for the early death. Linden’s father could eventually provide the cure, but at what cost to those around him? And if he fails, does Rhine want to be around to watch Linden and her older sister wives die?
DeStefano’s book, the first in the Chemical Garden trilogy, is entertaining and thought-provoking. Genetic engineering is not a topic many young adult books venture into, at least not in this manner, and yet DeStefano does so without bogging readers down with heavy details. Wither asks us the costs of modern science and weighs against the benefits. Some may find her characters a bit clichéd (the bubbly energetic youngest wife, the bitter and angry oldest wife, the well-meaning-but-clueless husband), but those cliches become wonderfully drawn characters that undergo transformations of their own. Each character’s backstory is woven into the book so as to explain their current situation and outlook. Wither is a seamless wonder of a book that will have fans scrambling for a sequel.

Fever: Chemical Garden Trilogy 02 is due out February 2012.

--Kyla Paterno

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