(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years–leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.
Together with one of Linden’s servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
(Summary courtesy of Amazon.)
A friend of mine was absolutely gushing over this novel, so she and I did a book exchange. I lent her my copy of Timeless by Alexandra Monir and she lent me her copy of Wither by Lauren DeStefano. As it turned out, it was a pretty good book exchange in which both of us got excellent new reading material.
The premise of the novel sounded quite promising to me: because of genetic modification, kids are now perfect, but have decreased life expectancies. Severely decreased, as in 25 for men and 20 for women. So, in an attempt to both live life to the fullest and carry on the very existence of the human race, wealthy men are now polygamous. Which, of course sets up the plot of Wither: Rhine, a sixteen-year-old girl is taken from her only family, her twin brother Rowan, to become one of the new wives to Linden Ashby, a twenty-one-year-old man whose first wife is dying. Rhine is chosen because of her heterochromia, her two different coloured eyes that her parents who were geneticists gave her and because she looks like Rose, Linden’s dying wife.
I bet you think you can predict the ending. But with that said, I bet you’re wrong, at least partially. I know I was.
Of course Wither includes what seems to be a staple of YA novels nowadays: a love triangle. It certainly seems like it’s your stereotypical love triangle at first, but it is Rhine’s choices throughout the novel that keep it from being predictable. Instead of accepting her fate as one of three wives and falling in love with her husband, she resolves to escape and to stay true to herself and Gabriel, the boy she really loves. Rhine Ellery certainly deserves to be called a memorable character.
My only real complaint is that for science fiction, there is a definite lack of science. We know that each person has a genetic time bomb because of scientists messing around with everyone’s genes, but it doesn’t get much more in depth than that. Then again, most YA science fiction would be classified as ‘soft science’ anyway. Still, I’d like to know a lot more about the science behind this mysterious genetic time bomb.
I give this book 4/5 stars.