May 19, 2012

Review: Wither

By: Lauren DeStefano
Published: March 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback, 358 pages
First Reviewed: April 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape—before her time runs out?

Rating: 3/5

When I read the description, my very first thought was, Um...what? Okay, DeStefano, you better make this believable. You do that, and this should be pretty awesome. Do I think she did that? No. I shall explain...

How in the world can every continent besides North America be destroyed (I'll get into my thoughts on that in a second) and taken over by water, but Florida and Manhattan are still fine? No, no, no, wouldn't happen. Anyway, that aside, I felt the world-building was great and very descriptive.

I liked the characters all right. Some, I'd give five stars, but others I didn't care for. So I settled on three stars. The main character, Rhine, was just okay for me. She had a nice, solid voice and personality, but she annoyed me with some of her complaining and whining about stuff. I get that she was a victim and all, was just over the top in some places. Other than that, I thought she was pretty solid. The sister wives were the most developed, in my opinion, and I felt they were very distinct without being cliche or one-dimensional. The others, though, were just okay. Especially the male leads. One of them, I was meh over, and the other was just kind of there, like a puppet. I never really felt anything from those two. Overall, though, I didn't dislike the characters, some were great, some were just okay.

DeStefano has beautiful writing, I think. She gives her main character a solid voice, the dialogue was believable, and the prose was nicely formed and flowed well. And even though it deals with a tough subject and some graphic stuff, the narrative is kept clean so that I never really felt uncomfortable, which is a skill.What bothered me was that she repeated herself a lot. For example, I get that so-and-so has red hair. You don't have to tell me ten times in one chapter. Or I get that he's your twin brother, you don't have to keep telling me his name and that he's your brother. I get it. But that's really all that bothered me about the actual writing. I think if she makes her stories much more believable, then she'll really have fantastic books.

The plot is where I struggled. Okay, some of this you get from the description, and a couple of things are very, very small spoilers, but they must be addressed. How on earth does a virus have the concept of time? Cue Pete from O' Brother, Where Art Thou?: "That don't make no sense!" Please explain to me how a virus is going to know exactly when you're twenty/twenty-five? It's unrealistic and was never truly explained in a way that I bought it.

Next: What? North America is the only place in the world after a third world war because they had the most advanced technology??? No lie, that's what it said. That is incredible BS! America/Canada/Mexico would never win a third world war against the entire rest of the world. Are you kidding me? Most advanced technology. Please. AND it said that the rest of the world wasn't just destroyed, it was gobbled up by water from whatever the heck North America did. What? What? ... ... ...What?

Okay, and if all of these people were raised in this world, a pregnant thirteen-year-old would be normal. Teenagers would not be innocent little kids, yet Rhine kept acting like they were losing their youth. Girl, you done lost your youth when you were, what?, ten? Twelve? The word "Christmas" didn't survive, but she knows about Dorothy and Oz? North America was so advanced in technology, but Rhine doesn't know about contact lenses? Also, contact lenses aren't enough to conceal one's identity. "Let me change my eyes and no one will recognize me." What? Come on.

Lastly, why did they ring in the new year on January 2nd?

Okay, that's enough of that. That's only a fraction of my issue with the believability of this stuff. The reason this section is rated three stars, though, even after all that up there, is because it was a solid read. Realism aside, the plot moved along at a nice pace, I was interested in what was going to happen, and I pretty much devoured this in one setting. If it was believable, I'd probably give this five stars, because it is an original spin on the dystopian genre. But, as you all know, an original spin isn't enough. It has to be believable.

Random: This, in all honestly, may be one of my favorite book designs of all-time. It's absolutely stunning! The digital copy of the cover does it no justice, and you have to see the inside to really understand what I mean. HUGE shout out to Lizzy Bromley for this design. Amazing!

I'll say it again, if this book was believable, I would have given it five stars. Overall, it's a decent read and a nice stray from all the other dystopians today. And I have to acknowledge the book design one more time: It's so beautiful! Oh, how I wish the book lived up to it.

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