DeStefano, L. (2011). Wither: The chemical garden #1. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Genre: Dystopian Fiction, Young Adult
Rhine is 16. In her world, that means her life is almost over. Huh? Yep, her life is almost over. In this dystopian novel, geneticists are scrambling to find an antidote to cure a virus causing a 20-year lifespan that plagues the world’s youth. There is much conflict surrounding geneticists and their work because they caused this virus with their attempts to create a perfect race. Rhine’s parents, both geneticists, were killed in a bombing. Rhine and her twin brother, Rowan, are left in a poverty-stricken city forced to find odd jobs to survive. To make matters worse, young girls, like Rhine, are the targets of horrendous crimes as people seek to either rebuild the human race or rip it down to prevent even more suffering.
And that’s just the opening. Rhine is kidnapped and bought as a bride to a wealthy man, Linden. His father is a sinister geneticist who will do everything in his power to keep Rhine under his control. Will Rhine be able to escape and find her way back to Rowan?
Reaction: Despite numerous warnings from others, I have to say that I really enjoyed DeStanfo's debut novel. Wither is beautifully and addictively written. I quickly became fond of Rhine and could understand her mixed emotions about her situation. She was kidnapped, torn from her brother and home, and forced into a polygamous marriage. Her sister-wives offer an interesting dynamic to the story as they cope with their generation's deadly virus, share their wealthy husband, and try to deal with the evil whims of Vaughn. At times, I wished I could have heard the inner thoughts of Rhine’s sister-wives. Rhine finds an unexpected love interest in the mansion that is her prison—for me, this was the highlight of the book. This unexpected love adds dimension to the plot and leads to a cliffhanger ending that will be continued in the next installment of this emotionally tragic, intriguing series. (Read in August 2011)