Book Reviews for Writers: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

May 2, 2011

The book Wither by Lauren DeStefano caught my eye for several reasons. The gorgeous cover. The sci fi/dystopian aspects. The polygamy. My own grandmother was born into polygamy, and was lucky enough to have an enterprising mother who escaped with her. So the story had my attention.

And it did not disappoint.

When scientists engineered genetically perfect children, everyone thought it would ensure the future of the human race. Though the first generation is nearly immortal, a virus causes all successive generations to die early: age 20 for women, 25 for men. Now, girls are kidnapped for brothels or polygamous marriages to breed children. Rhine is taken from her hardscrabble life and sold with two other girls to Linden Ashby. Though they live in a palatial Florida home surrounded by gardens and treated like royalty, the girls are sequestered from the outside world, and Rhine longs to escape. Her growing affection for her sister wives, her pity for Linden, and her fear of Housemaster Vaughn, Linden's manipulative father, keep her uncomfortably docile, until she falls for servant Gabriel.

First off, the writing is gorgeous. Rhine's voice is mature, and the books reads smoothly. It's one of those that I got so swept up in, I didn't even analyze it as I went. I just wanted the story. I found the science aspects fascinating, and I loved that it was kind of a dystopian made small. The dystopian aspects of the world took place within the mansion where Rhine lives-- her small world is seemingly perfect, but it is a cage nonetheless. I also loved the book's apocalyptic aspects-- a world that is very slowly dying.

But what I loved most about this book were the relationships. Obviously there are some very heavy issues at hand here-- characters who are dying, kidnapping, polygamy, teenage brides. The emotional poignancy of these issues is enhanced by the relationships of all kinds: the sister-wive's, the wives with their husband, Rhine with Gabriel, everyone with evil Vaughn. As writers, this is one thing I think we can take away from this book.

I talked about character relationships recently, and Wither is a great example of how relationships between characters strengthen a story. All of the characters in the book were complicated, and each of their relationships was as well. For me, that's what made this book with such a far-out premise real. I believed the characters, so I believed their story. I admit, there were a few world-building aspects in Wither that felt flat (and one that I found down-right unbelievable). And yet, I still loved the book because of the characters and their relationships.

If you're looking for an emotional, gripping, and fascinating read that you can learn from as a writer, I highly recommend Wither!


Michelle Merrill said...

Awesome! Thanks for the recommendation. I enjoyed your review. I can't wait to read about those relationships.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I loved your review of Wither! It affected me in a similar way and for similar reasons, and you put it so eloquently!

I thought it was amazing how that depth in the relationships made what sounds cut-and-dry (hate your 'husband' and wallow in pity with your sister wives) into something complex and nuanced. She tries to hate her 'husband' but struggles because he's not the monster she wishes he was, and her sister wives each have their own complicated feelings about their lush prison.

Thanks for the review! Hope we get to meet at Storymakers this weekend!

Jessie Harrell said...

totally agree with your review! I felt the same way and - as a writer - absolutely ADORED the writing.

Julie Musil said...

I totally need to read this book. It sounds like something I'd love.

Luna said...

Good to know! I might have to read this one next.

Unknown said...

I finished this in two sittings, yesterday. I loved the book! Thanks for the amazing review!!!

I didn't realise that this is going to be a trilogy so I was slightly disappointed with the ending but since finding out there's going to be more books the ending isn't so disappointing.

Strangely enough I'm more Team Linden! (hides for cover).

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