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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too Little Detail Makes for Shaky Dystopian Foundation

(Image from Indiebound)
"Even the human race can't claim to be natural anymore. We are fake, dying things" (119).
After World War III demolishes most of the world, human life becomes more precious than ever. With females dying at age 20 and males living only five years longer, the race to repopulate the Earth with enough bodies to ensure the survival of the species is on. It's a desperate battle against time, against genetics, and, sometimes, against the wills of potential mothers. To ensure that healthy young women perform their child-bearing duties, roving bands of Gatherers kidnap desirable girls, force them into polygamous marriages, and "encourage" them to produce offspring. Those who resist, die.
Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery lives with her twin brother in a city once called Manhattan. The duo live on the mean streets, doing whatever they can, whatever they have to in order to survive. When Rhine wakes up one day in a dark van filled with whimpering teenage girls, she knows her luck has finally run out. She's been taken. As much as she wants to fight her captors tooth and nail, Rhine's got enough street smarts to know the best way to live through her kidnapping is to cooperate. Even if it means marrying a complete stranger. Even if it means sharing a husband with three other girls. Even if it means carrying a child. As long as she's alive, she'll look for a way to escape. One day, she'll taste freedom again.
Considering how bleak the outside world can be, life in captivity isn't nearly as bad as Rhine believed it would be. She has a spacious room in her husband's mansion, plenty to eat, beautiful clothes to wear, and an attendant whose sole purpose is to do Rhine's bidding. To relax into such luxury would be easy. But deadly. Rhine can't let her guard down, no matter how bright her new world glitters. After all, she's still a prisoner. And something is very, very wrong in the mansion that looms around her.
As much as I love dystopian novels, I found Wither by Lauren DeStefano disappointing. The premise behind the book holds some intriguing possibilities, but this first novel in the trilogy doesn't set up DeStefano's dystopia clearly enough to make it seem logical. She never explained things like how prevalent polygamy was in this world; if people were allowed to choose for themselves when and whom to marry and why girls needed to be kidnapped when, surely, there were some who would choose forced marriage to a wealthy man over starving to death on the streets. These unanswered questions irritated me almost - but not quite - as much as Rhine's growing complacency over her imprisonment. And then there's the big finale. Oh boy. It's so easy, so anticlimatic that I wanted to throw the book against the wall.

Wither's yet another example of a highly buzzed about novel that just doesn't quite deliver. I expected and really, really wanted a whole lot more from it. I'm still invested enough in the story that I'll probably read the sequels, but I won't be posting any countdown widgets on my blog. For these, I can wait.
(Readalikes: A little like Delirium by Lauren Oliver and a teensy bit like Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence and mild sexual content
To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. My partner is having a hard time with this one at the moment too - he's having a lot of trouble getting into it (about 80 or so pages in).

  2. Yeah, that's what I hated about it too. And I hadn't really noticed, probably because I lost interest 50 pages in, but the ending WAS anti-climatic!

  3. That's funny - I didn't have trouble getting into the story, I just had trouble sticking with it because there were so many details missing. And the ending just made the whole novel seem like a waste of time. I hate that.

  4. Just finished this book the night before. Stayed up untill 2am. Loved it. Found all the relationships very interesting.
    The back story didnt bother me at all. Cant wait for the next one.

  5. I totally agree!!! I actually wanted to read your review on this book to see if we were on the same page. I love that we are, now I'm going to read more of your reviews! Thank you for being real. :)


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