Thursday, 1 December 2011
Wither - Lauren DeStefano (#1)
I love the circles that point out the details that define the story - the ring, the caged bird and on the back, the low hourglass - AH, I love it!
So after reading review upon review on the blogosphere with bloggers raving about this book, I decided this was excuse enough to buy it on Waterstone's to read - a couple of months on, I have and boy, am I glad I bought this partly over cover lust...
Synopsis: Set in the future, the world has done disastrously wrong. After several decades of genetic manipulation, a deadly virus has swept across the human race where men die at 25 and females at 20 and the world now only consists of North America, the other continents uninhabited. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped to marry men near their death date to procreate the human race. 16 year-old Rhine Ellery is blackmailed and kidnapped, sold and married to a man near the end of his life amongst two other young girls, Jenna and Cecily. Even though her new husband is kind to her, Rhine is desperate to escape the beautiful but prison-like mansion - especially because of Linden's cruel and creepy father. With the help of Gabriel, an assistant she becomes attracted too, Rhine attempts to break free - in the little time and freedom she has.
Review: This was quite a hard book to review so sorry if my words don't formulate well. Ask me in the comments below...
WITHER has something that I think most books lack. It is original and different in characters, plot, setting and even genre. Dystopian books normally leave you exhausted, wanting more. And also, I cannot wait for the next book in this series, I'm not exhausted at all. This book has a slower pace, but not too slow so I am reading ahead wondering what I'm being built up to. But I liked it - it was interesting.
I think the thing that brings people's attention (no, not the cover, but it's beautiful isn't it?) is the topic that this book deals with. No-one likes dying or even dying young. I am 16 going on 17. For me, that sounds older but I know I'm still young and have many decades ahead of me. But then I put myself in the place of Rhine who is MY AGE. She has four years until she dies. What a horrible feeling...that in four years, I too would be dead or ill, gently going out this world, when in reality I have no idea what I will be like or even doing in four years time. The situation the characters are in really makes the reader think and I think it will make you value your life a little bit more.
Regarding the characters, I found I became attached to them in different ways. You learn everything about them and more. I came away hating Vaughn and Cecily while sobbing over Jenna, feeling sorry for Linden and whooping on Rhine. I know this is how I was supposed to feel, but the fact that this is only the first book, it feels like I've been reading about these characters for a while. For Jenna, I became very attached to her and I liked how she saw right through this world from the start. Cecily...oh my. She is annoying, yes, but then you kind of feel sorry for her innocence in such a place and how she WANTS to have babies at like 13. This book is a lot about growth, and for me, she grew up the most and quickest.
Rhine as a voice was great and she reminded me of myself. She is very observant and looks deeper into things other than on the surface. While I read about the lavish lifestyle, the luxury of it all - somewhere I dream of staying - I always had this nag of something wrong about it all, much like Rhine does. I mean, this is a 300-page book, something can't be right.
WITHER is not one of those book where you are on the edge of your seat every minute. But then it's not a book you can sit back and relax with. Actually, the whole idea of the situation of Rhine and her world is quite terrifying and when you hear about cures for cancer etc, you kind of think 'What is this did actually happen?'. There are some disturbing parts in it, especially the beginning which hits you instantly. You find out the world she lives in, and it stays with you throughout reading and beyond. The beginning plunges you as a reader into the depth of the story, which I liked as well, DeStefano didn't beat around the bush on what she was trying to create, there is no airy fairy lyrical language, just plain words that create this extraordinary world.
The thing I found with the world created was that it felt very old fashioned and proper, when it's set in the future with huge technological advancements. It contrasts well and makes it have something very different from normal dystopian books.
Lauren DeStefano, herself, writes well, but not like in some reviews, beautifully. On many occasions, I had to re-read a sentence to understand and well polished novels shouldn't be like this, for me anyway. Her ideas and the imagery behind her writing is amazing, I could imagine every single moment of Rhine's life before and after the kidnapping. Actually, while reading, I kept constantly analysing the imagery and language like in an English Literature essay, it was so in depth and you can tell that it is a well thought out complete story. This is classed partly as a romance book and yes, it is. There is romance for the main character, both forced and not forced. Gabriel is someone every reader, like Rhine, learns to love. I agree with some reviews that there is a lack of real romance in this book but as there is two more books and after reading the ending, you may understand why the romance is perhaps played down a bit.
I enjoyed this book a lot, I liked the alternative view on the future that every dystopian brings. This writer isn't afraid to talk about taboo like issues such as sex, kidnapping and pregnancy or to kill and create more characters. I shall not say who, but someone dies in this book, and I don't think I've ever read a death scene with that kind of language, imagery and emotion. This is the kind of scene that makes reading a book worthwhile.
The book overall, was amazing. Just, wow.
I have seen a few negative reviews around the blogosphere and I think I understand why. Yes, there is the language thing I mentioned but also, this kind of book is not everyone's cup of tea. If you loved the Hunger Games where there is action every minute or when you're on the edge of your seat, you will probably dislike this book.
It is original though and outlines a world that is far too similar and possible in our society today. Rhine provides a glorious, youthful voice and although I would have liked a bit more romance, I think the relationships created are realistic and great to read. So, there is two more books, but I have absolutely no idea what will happen in them. For now anyway, I would recommend this to anyone who loves a bit of romance or dystopian. It is so worth a look.
Verdict: Great read but if you love action all the way through a book, I'd give it a miss.
I give it a 4.5 out 5
The second in this trilogy, Fever, comes out 16th February 2012
Author's Website: http://www.laurendestefano.com/ & http://thechemicalgardenbooks.com/wither/
Publisher: Harper Voyager