Wither by Lauren Destefano

I would rate this book 3.5 out of 5. This book is the story of Rhine, she lives in a world where females only live to 20 and males 25, thanks to a genetic interference. The demand for girls is high as the world (which is now only North America) is trying to repopulate at the same rate that the population is dying. Rhine is kidnapped, taken from her twin and made to marry a man along with three other girls. Polygamy eat your heart out!

I was intrigued by the premise that the population only lived until 20 and 25 so this is what made me read it. As it began I did think that I was reading a typical, falls in love with her new husband and I also thought that there was going to be a love triangle that would take over the book. I also thought that this would be quite an immature read as the character was only 16.

I couldn’t have been more wrong…

There is a fantastic juxtaposition in this book, the fact that Rhine is 16 and the fact that in this world, everyone has to grow up fast. We are constantly experiencing subtle reminders of her age but then right after that we see that she is actually grasping and dealing with adult issues in a very mature way. The best example I can give of this is that in some parts of the book Rhine is found to be hiding under leaves piles of leaves, I loved this description in the book as it really felt like a pure snapshot of the innocence of being a child. But through her interactions in the book, she uses very mature vocabulary and also shows very adult reasoning and bravery to events that would have me running and hiding under said leaves but never coming out.

The world that the author has created and the chaos it has caused is mirrored in her main character. One of my favourite things in this book is the fact that it is gritty, despite the character being 16, the themes and characters are complex and dealt with in a mature and hard hitting way that you wouldn’t have got in many novels featuring a 16 year old character. There is no immaturity in this book and it makes for a very compelling read.

This novel is set far into the future, I’m not sure exactly when but the technological advances and the change in the world focuses for the most part, entirely on the catastrophic results of the genetic advancements that were made. There are occasional nods to the fact that only North America still exists, I thought this could have been explored more and I am wondering if the fact it is mentioned – is a hint that this is not the case and that this will be explored in the second book perhaps? I don’t know. I do find it strange that the world was able to make such fantastic changes to DNA but the only technological advances in this book that were fully described were holograms. The holograms were a fantastic device to create atmosphere in this book. It was a great technique that the illusions of the holograms allude to the delusional semblance of life that is being lived in the mansion.

I felt the tone of this book was sinister from the first line, until the end. I was holding my breath waiting for something really awful to happen. It is a very gripping read with some very emotional and disturbing elements. I also revelled in read about a very mentally strong protagonist. For 16, she is not a cowering wreck, she is clever, patient and strong in a world that is constantly trying to beat her down. I especially enjoyed the vivid murderous thoughts she had about her villainous capturer.

I would highly recommend this book because it doesn’t let you down. Although the world building could have been a little stronger and the ending was a bit of an anti-climax, the journey that you take with this character is enthralling, I was in constant admiration of the way in which she remained steadfast and determined in defiance of the limited years she has in front of her. I loved her resolution to spend them the way she wanted. Even though she was facing impossible odds.

I would recommend this novel to people that are interested in futuristic novels, but don’t want to get bogged down in the advancements and details; this much more an character defined novel about the strength of the human will in the face of terrible adversity. I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you get easily depressed and prefer light and happy novels, this a story of a struggle for survival from beginning to end. And I thoroughly enjoyed it for that reason and I am looking forward to reading the next one.

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