Friday, May 6, 2011


Wither, Book One of The Chemical Garden Trilogy, by Lauren Destefano (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011).

Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live. A virus activated by the genetic engineering that produced one generation of superior adults has doomed subsequent generations to an early death--at age 20 for females, and 25 for males. Scientists in Manhattan racing to find an antidote have been destroyed by a faction that believes the human race should be allowed to die out, though other researchers continue to seek a solution. Meanwhile, orphans are increasingly left to fend for themselves, and girls are often snatched off the street by Gatherers who take them to the homes of rich men to dwell in polygamous marriages and reproduce in case a cure is found.

Kidnapped Rhine finds herself far away from her twin brother and forced to marry Linden in a group ceremony with two other girls, who become her sister wives. Although Rhine becomes his favorite, once his first wife has died, and she's living in relative ease compared to the poverty of her previous home, Rhine can only think of escaping to be with her brother again. Her father-in-law, a ruthless doctor obsessed with finding a cure before his own son dies, rules the household, manipulating everyone within it, even lying to his own son and performing gruesome experiments in his single-minded quest.

Withered is an excellent dystopia, peppered with potent social criticism. Rhine's relationships with her hapless husband, her sister wives, and the young attendant with whom she wishes to escape are all well drawn and enfolded in the captivating narrative. Highly recommended for ages 14 & up. Intense and sexual situations.


cleemckenzie said...

I'm not one for intense sexual situations for the 14 year olds. Do you think the writing-- theme, narrative-- mitigated that element?

Your review was really very well written. Thanks.

Lisa said...

I've heard really good things about this book!

Mary said...

@clee: It's definitely fine for 14 y.o. (high school age). I think the plot itself is too intense for younger readers, but the sexual situations themselves are fairly mild and not explicit at all.
@Lisa: if you dystopias this is definitely one you should read!