Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Published: 4th August 2011 (UK)
Publisher: HarperCollins Voyager
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 she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
I really want to know the scientific reasoning for women dying at 20 and men at 25, especially considering that statistically speaking women live longer. I thought it might have something to do with physical and sexual maturity, but I'm hoping the reason get's revealed in the later books.
I loved all the characters in this book, they were all very distinct and very well developed with their own backstories, something I can really appreciate. I liked them all for some reasons, and disliked them all for some reasons which IMO is the mark of a great character. No one can be perfect. I think Jenna was probably my favourite of them all. I loved the relationships in this book, you could see how they all grow over time. One of my favourite moments was when the 3 sister wives joined forces to bully Linden into doing something they wanted.
The three sister wives reactions to the marriage they were forced into were really interesting to witness, and I found myself wondering how I'd react in that situation. I think I probably would have gone down the Jenna route. I couldn't help but feel that Rhine's thought processes in regards to her enslavement were a bit repetitive throughout the novel, and I did get a little fed up of her obsession with escaping and with tricking Linden into favouriting her. That's probably really unfair of me, but at the time I was a little frustrated with her.
I don't think anyone can hate Linden, though he was definitely one of the most naive characters I've ever come across. His father was one of the creepiest guys I've come across and I'm curious to see what he's upto in that basement of his.
I loved that the present tense was used for the narration of this book, it makes the story so much more immediate and definitely made me connect more with Rhine. I thought the prose did start off fairly poetic and lyrical, but for me that dropped off towards the end which was really disappointing. It felt almost as though the earlier prose had been forced rather than the natural style of the writer. Despite this, I did enjoy the storytelling in this book.
Overall I'm glad I read this and I really am looking forward to the sequel. I was worried I'd dislike it after all the hype but if you're a fan of dystopian, or looking for your first dystopian book I'd definitely recommend this. 4/5 from me.