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.
Advanced Readers Copies are evil, children. I'm warning you. Letting an ARC into your house is tantamount to disaster. I actually read this book months ago and now it's only just about to be released and I'm tearing my hair out in want of the sequel. This book was fabulous enough to cause severe emotional distress.
First, it's YA dystopia, an ever growing genre made up almost entirely of win. I've found only one or two that have disappointed me. These books are shocking, terrifying, and startlingly realistic (save for the Zombie Apocalypse which we will allow). A horror story is so much more effective when you could see how it could be real. Many people got to experience this book along with me as I read it. I took great joy in seeing their shocked expressions when I told them what the book was about.
In DeStefano's dystopian future, women have a shelf life of twenty years. Science, in its unending quest to rid the world of diseases that shorten lives, has advanced itself into a state of the exact opposite. Twenty illness free years are all that a female is allowed before her time runs out and a horrible sickness brings her death. Twenty years allows very little time to repopulate the human race, and even less to study it in hopes of finding a cure, for the cure. Women are married off in multiples to men, who live longer (oh the injustice) and spend their remaining, fertile years trying to conceive.
This isn't a new concept; DeStefano just told it better. I remember reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and hating it, not for the shocking storyline, but because it bored the hell out of me. This time, I was still shocked and pleasantly appalled at women being portrayed as enslaved breeders, but I was much much more entertained.
There are so MANY great characters in this book, and you will be properly and soundly introduced to each of them in turn. Rhine is matched with two other "wives" into a house hold whose one remaining wife is dying. Her short but meaningful friendship with the woman facing eminent death gives Rhine a glimpse of just what her future will be like. I loved the mix of the beautiful and the grotesque as these women are portrayed as lovely, but diseased flowers, kept prettily in their idyllic little garden world until they are no longer deemed useful. Their lives are worth so much yet they matter so little.
The one thing I couldn't feel is any sympathy for Linden, the "husband" so to speak. In many ways he's just as much a prisoner to this new society as his wives but he still retains some freedoms. While I'm glad to see that the decline of a wife as she neared the end of her twenty years was still able to affect him, he was a wussy little daddy's boy and I wanted to smack him.
I've said before how opposed I am to nearly EVERY freakin' YA book released today having to be part of a series when there was barely enough concept and content to warrant a first book, but in Wither a world is created, expertly in fact. A story may only go so far if the setting is lacking, but a well defined world can mean no end of possibilities. I long for, pine and covet the idea of a sequel to Wither and I don't know how I'll bear the wait.
"I spend a lot of time in an overstuffed chair in the library, thumbing through brilliant pages of flowers that no longer grow in this world, and some that can still be found in other parts of the country. I educate myself on the polar ice caps, vaporized long ago by warfare, and an explorer named Christopher Columbus who proved the earth was round. In my prison I lose myself in the library of a free and boundless world that's long dead."
*A very special thank you to the publisher for sending me this wonderful treasure.
*Quote taken from an ARC of Wither and may vary in the finished copy.