Wither by Lauren DeStefano tells the tale of 16 year old Rhine who lives in a futuristic, dystopian society where women die at the age of 20 and men die at the age of 25. In order to continue the human population, scientists are all looking for the cure to the virus that distorted humanity to such an extent. In the mean time, girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages in order to produce children, for the sake of keeping the human population going.
With such a gorgeous cover, I was drawn to Wither right away. And while I’m moving away from such young protagonists in the YA genre, the very adult theme of polygamy was intriguing, so I was really excited to finally pick it up from the library.
Rhine is separated from her twin brother, her only living family after her parents’ death, when she is kidnapped. Forced into a polygamous marriage to a young man, Linden, Rhine spends her days cautiously around her husband, and her sister wives, one who is 12 and the other who is 18.
What really gripped me about this story was the relationship between the 3 girls. Rhine isn’t the most engaging narrator, but I loved hearing about her fearful encounters with her sister wives Cecily and Jenna, whom she slowly grew to love and care about. Rhine herself grows and changes as she discovers Jenna’s secrets and starts to understand Cecily better. The relationship isn’t without awkwardness though, as Linden, the girls’ husband, spends nights with each of the girls, trying to give them equal attention and love.
The boys, Linden and Gabriel, were my least favourite part of the book. In a world of such darkness and confusion, both men are portrayed as naively optimistic. I would have loved to see Linden as a more complex character, but instead he has no idea where his 3 wives have come from, and instead thinks of himself as helping them. He was such a blank character, I felt nothing at all for him.
Similarly, Gabriel, as the one that Rhine falls for, is also bland and boring. He’s portrayed as the good guy, the one that helps Rhine out, keeps her company when her husband ignores her, and whom she spends most of her time with. Again, there’s no darkness or complexity to his character; he’s just a good guy.
The world that DeStefano created was beautiful and evocative, always asking questions of the reader, of whether one human life was worth the sacrifice for the greater good of humanity. Only North America has survived, as countries like Japan and India have become dreams of yesteryear.
With so much potential, I was left wanting more. More explanation. More character development. More heart. Despite that, I was still drawn in, so fast and quick that I couldn’t stop reading.
So for that 3.5/5
Thanks for reading,