Friday, 24 June 2011

review: Wither

by Lauren DeStefano
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011
young adult sci-fi

Maybe Rhine's orphaned existence ekeing it out with her twin Rowan wasn't the most comfortable, but it definitely beat being kidnapped and sold off into a polygamous marriage to birth children and repopulate the world after the deadly virus shortens everyone's lifespans. Escape is foremost on Rhine's mind for a while, but as the endless grounds of the mansion beat down her hopes, she starts to suspect that her new father-in-law, Vaughn, is into something sinister revolving around a lot of corpses and the antidote to the virus. Soon Rhine's sister wives are withering, Linden is proclaiming his love for her and she's growing a risky attraction to the servant Gabriel. No wonder escape never seemed so far.
The cover:

Prrretty! And it's not even the girl (she seriously needs some frizz-control shampoo, BTW); it's the elegant pink lines, squares and especially the circles around the model's wedding ring and the caged birds. The lines and shapes continue through the book,thanks to the clearly fabulous book designer Lizzy Bromley.

The book:

First thing to note: yes, I did classify Wither as science fiction. There is a lot of emphasis on the science in this novel, what with the motive behind Vaughn's actions and Rhine's own scientist parents. It's not post-apocalyptic because the entire human population wasn't wiped out, just one generation; and it's not dystopian because nothing's wrong with the society or government. I mean, girls are kidnapped in today's society, and lots of cultures are fine with polygamous marriages. So, sci-fi it is.

I liked Rhine (and her name!), especially at the beginning. She's thoughtful, an adjective I don't get to assign enough, and her memories of her family life are so close and real that they work better than any flashback could. The passion she showed for her freedom and the liberated world is admirable. When she starts to get sucked into Linden's world, I actually was disappointed, something I don't usually let myself feel for protagonists.

It's a good thing Rhine was so quietly appealing because the whole book is quiet. Making frightening scenes over normal domestic things like giving birth didn't work out very well, at least not to my tastes, especially when it's not the protag who's experiencing them. Since the first death comes early, the second one has even less of an impact.

The romance with Gabriel has so many gapes in it that you almost can't blame Rhine for telling Linden "I love you, too". Oh yeah, and the ending so didn't made me want the next book. It actually felt great as a standalone; an occasional open-ended finish isn't a bad thing. Also, I'm tired of trilogies. So I guess Wither just wasn't for me.

Rating: 2.3 out of 5