Second Look: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

My apologies.

My internet connection has been painfully slow and has been driving me CRAZY. So my routine has been to open a browser window, take a shower and do my hair while it loads, click “check mail”, make dinner while mailbox loads, open an email, eat dinner while email loads, read the aforementioned email… you get the idea. Hence the lack of posts lately.

BUT FEAR NOT! Because amid all this slowness, I was able to tear myself away from my computer and managed to do some reading… on with the reviewing!

Rhine Ellery lives in a post-apocalyptic world where science has made great genetic advancements. An entire generation of people is able to happily live without the threat of disease and ages slowly and gracefully. Unfortunately, all the children of this generation are not so lucky, as a virus kills all women at age 20 and men at 25.  When Rhine is kidnapped by the Gatherers to become a bride in a polygamous marriage, she is ripped from her twin brother and whisked to a luxurious, secluded mansion. She faces a life with her new husband, companionship with her two sister wives, and a sadistic father-in-law who is desperate to find a cure so his son will live past the age of 25. Since Rhine’s arrival at the mansion, all she wants is to escape and make her way back home to her brother. Now she has a decision to make: live the remaining four years of her life in luxury (or a facsimile of it), or attempt an escape with Gabriel, a servant she’s attracted to… and shouldn’t be.

All DeStefano’s characters have a rich, emotional depth that make you to feel what they feel. Rhine is a smart, strong young woman. She knows how to take care of herself and manipulate a situation to her benefit when she needs to. Normally that’s not a trait I’d consider positive, but, given the circumstances, I’d say it’s commendable. She is terribly distraught after being separated from her twin, but manages to have the presence of mind to take care of her sister wives, and formulate the best plan for escape. Linden, her/their husband, is an odd character. He’s incredibly naive and sheltered, which is largely because of his domineering father, Housemaster Vaughn. I want to hate Linden for what he’s done to these girls, but I just feel sorry for him. Jenna, Sister Wife #1, is an awesome partner in crime. At 19, with only one year left to live, she’s got nothing to lose. She watches out for Rhine and supports her by laying some groundwork for some of Rhine’s stealthy schemes. Cecily, Sister Wife #2, is like everyone’s typical, annoying, 13-year-old little sister. That’s right. 13. Who is actually excited to be a child bride. Despite how aggravating she may be, she does have some redeeming qualities which shine through as the book progresses.


  • Wither just might shape your view of parenthood.  After the birth scene, it made me realize that the whole concept of motherhood kind of repulses me.
  • DeStefano’s writing is a treat all by itself, plain and simple.

The long and short of it is that Wither is an incredible book. Lauren DeStefano has a true gift for words and has managed to craft an amazing page turner. I fear the brain that spawned such a brilliant work of YA lit. She took a touchy subject (sister wives, polygamous camps with child brides, etc) that has been steadily gaining more and more national attention and gave it a uniquely creative twist. As for content, there’s not much violence or language at all. Among the wives, there’s talk of “consummating the marriage” and getting pregnant to perpetuate the human race, but DeStafano’s language is classy, and never immature or crude.

As icky as the thought is of being a polygamous child bride, there are positive messages that shine through. There’s no sense of rivalry or competition among the three girls and they manage to bond through their past and present experiences. They also rally around each other when they need to, despite still wanting to do what’s best for themselves. There are two very intense scenes, one dealing with the aforementioned birth and one with a death, that drive that point home.

What worries me about The Chemical Garden Trilogy? Most trilogies follow the same pattern: Book 1 kicks major ass, Book 2 is just a bridge to Book 3, and Book 3 either rocks a satisfying conclusion, or sucks so bad you weep for what should have been an awesome series (for those of us who hated Mockingjay, see: The Hunger Games). By itself, Wither would make a fine stand alone novel. I have a vague idea where DeStefano is going to take Fever (Book 2), but I think the series would be interesting if the next book focused on the POV of one of the other wives. But, then again, with her creative imagination, maybe she’ll surprise me.




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