Wither (Chemical Garden Series #1)

Wither (Chemical Garden Series #1)

by Lauren DeStefano


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By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking 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 kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. 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 is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape—before her time runs out?

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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442409057
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 03/22/2011
Series: Chemical Garden Series , #1
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 635,852
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: HL800L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Lauren DeStefano is the author of The Internment Chronicles and the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden trilogy, which includes Wither, Fever, and Sever. She earned her BA in English with a concentration in creative writing from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut. Visit her at LaurenDeStefano.com.

Read an Excerpt


  • 1

    I WAIT. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids. We sleep huddled together like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying.

    I know when one of the girls reaches a wall. She begins to pound and scream—there’s metal in the sound—but none of us help her. We’ve gone too long without speaking, and all we do is bury ourselves more into the dark.

    The doors open.

    The light is frightening. It’s the light of the world through the birth canal, and at once the blinding tunnel that comes with death. I recoil into the blankets with the other girls in horror, not wanting to begin or end.

    We stumble when they let us out; we’ve forgotten how to use our legs. How long has it been—days? Hours? The big open sky waits in its usual place.

    I stand in line with the other girls, and men in gray coats study us.

    I’ve heard of this happening. Where I come from, girls have been disappearing for a long time. They disappear from their beds or from the side of the road. It happened to a girl in my neighborhood. Her whole family disappeared after that, moved away, either to find her or because they knew she would never be returned.

    Now it’s my turn. I know girls disappear, but any number of things could come after that. Will I become a murdered reject? Sold into prostitution? These things have happened. There’s only one other option. I could become a bride. I’ve seen them on television, reluctant yet beautiful teenage brides, on the arm of a wealthy man who is approaching the lethal age of twenty-five.

    The other girls never make it to the television screen. Girls who don’t pass their inspection are shipped to a brothel in the scarlet districts. Some we have found murdered on the sides of roads, rotting, staring into the searing sun because the Gatherers couldn’t be bothered to deal with them. Some girls disappear forever, and all their families can do is wonder.

    The girls are taken as young as thirteen, when their bodies are mature enough to bear children, and the virus claims every female of our generation by twenty.

    Our hips are measured to determine strength, our lips pried apart so the men can judge our health by our teeth. One of the girls vomits. She may be the girl who screamed. She wipes her mouth, trembling, terrified. I stand firm, determined to be anonymous, unhelpful.

    I feel too alive in this row of moribund girls with their eyes half open. I sense that their hearts are barely beating, while mine pounds in my chest. After so much time spent riding in the darkness of the truck, we have all fused together. We are one nameless thing sharing this strange hell. I do not want to stand out. I do not want to stand out.

    But it doesn’t matter. Someone has noticed me. A man paces before the line of us. He allows us to be prodded by the men in gray coats who examine us. He seems thoughtful and pleased.

    His eyes, green, like two exclamation marks, meet mine. He smiles. There’s a flash of gold in his teeth, indicating wealth. This is unusual, because he’s too young to be losing his teeth. He keeps walking, and I stare at my shoes. Stupid! I should never have looked up. The strange color of my eyes is the first thing anyone ever notices.

    He says something to the men in gray coats. They look at all of us, and then they seem to be in agreement. The man with gold teeth smiles in my direction again, and then he’s taken to another car that shoots up bits of gravel as it backs onto the road and drives away.

    The vomit girl is taken back to the truck, and a dozen other girls with her; a man in a gray coat follows them in. There are three of us left, the gap of the other girls still between us. The men speak to one another again, and then to us. “Go,” they say, and we oblige. There’s nowhere to go but the back of an open limousine parked on the gravel. We’re off the road somewhere, not far from the highway. I can hear the faraway sounds of traffic. I can see the evening city lights beginning to appear in the distant purple haze. It’s nowhere I recognize; a road this desolate is far from the crowded streets back home.

    Go. The two other chosen girls move before me, and I’m the last to get into the limousine. There’s a tinted glass window that separates us from the driver. Just before someone shuts the door, I hear something inside the van where the remaining girls were herded.

    It’s the first of what I know will be a dozen more gunshots.

    * * *

    I awake in a satin bed, nauseous and pulsating with sweat. My first conscious movement is to push myself to the edge of the mattress, where I lean over and vomit onto the lush red carpet. I’m still spitting and gagging when someone begins cleaning up the mess with a dishrag.

    “Everyone handles the sleep gas differently,” he says softly.

    “Sleep gas?” I splutter, and before I can wipe my mouth on my lacy white sleeve, he hands me a cloth napkin—also lush red.

    “It comes out through the vents in the limo,” he says. “It’s so you won’t know where you’re going.”

    I remember the glass window separating us from the front of the car. Airtight, I assume. Vaguely I remember the whooshing of air coming through vents in the walls.

    “One of the other girls,” the boy says as he sprays white foam onto the spot where I vomited, “she almost threw herself out the bedroom window, she was so dis-oriented. The window’s locked, of course. Shatterproof.” Despite the awful things he’s saying, his voice is low, possibly even sympathetic.

    I look over my shoulder at the window. Closed tight. The world is bright green and blue beyond it, brighter than my home, where there’s only dirt and the remnants of my mother’s garden that I’ve failed to revive.

    Somewhere down the hall a woman screams. The boy tenses for a moment. Then he resumes scrubbing away the foam.

    “I can help,” I offer. A moment ago I didn’t feel guilty about ruining anything in this place; I know I’m here against my will. But I also know this boy isn’t to blame. He can’t be one of the Gatherers in gray who brought me here. Maybe he was also brought here against his will. I haven’t heard of teenage boys disappearing, but up until fifty years ago, when the virus was discovered, girls were also safe. Everyone was safe.

    “No need. It’s all done,” he says. And when he moves the rag away, there’s not so much as a stain. He pulls a handle out of the wall, and a chute opens; he tosses the rags into it, lets go, and the chute clamps shut. He tucks the can of white foam into his apron pocket and returns to what he was doing. He picks up a silver tray from where he’d placed it on the floor, and brings it to my night table. “If you’re feeling better, there’s some lunch for you. Nothing that will make you fall asleep again, I promise.” He looks like he might smile. Just almost. But he maintains a concentrated gaze as he lifts a metal lid off a bowl of soup and another off a small plate of steaming vegetables and mashed potatoes cradling a lake of gravy. I’ve been stolen, drugged, locked away in this place, yet I’m being served a gourmet meal. The sentiment is so vile I could almost throw up again.

    “That other girl—the one who tried to throw herself out the window—what happened to her?” I ask. I don’t dare ask about the woman screaming down the hall. I don’t want to know about her.

    “She’s calmed down some.”

    “And the other girl?”

    “She woke up this morning. I think the House Governor took her to tour the gardens.”

    House Governor. I remember my despair and crash against the pillows. House Governors own mansions. They purchase brides from Gatherers, who patrol the streets looking for ideal candidates to kidnap. The merciful ones will sell the rejects into prostitution, but the ones I encountered herded them into the van and shot them all. I heard that first gunshot over and over in my medicated dreams.

    “How long have I been here?” I say.

    “Two days,” the boy says. He hands me a steaming cup, and I’m about to refuse it when I see the tea bag string dangling over the side, smell the spices. Tea. My brother, Rowan, and I had it with our breakfast each morning, and with dinner each night. The smell is like home. My mother would hum as she waited by the stove for the water to boil.

    Blearily I sit up and take the tea. I hold it near my face and breathe the steam in through my nose. It’s all I can do not to burst into tears. The boy must sense that the full impact of what has happened is reaching me. He must sense that I’m on the verge of doing something dramatic like crying or trying to fling myself out the window like that other girl, because he’s already moving for the door. Quietly, without looking back, he leaves me to my grief. But instead of tears, when I press my face against the pillow, a horrible, primal scream comes out of me. It’s unlike anything I thought myself capable of. Rage, unlike anything I’ve ever known.

  • Reading Group Guide

    Reading Group Guide for Wither by Lauren DeStefano


    Rhine Ellery is sixteen years old and has four years to live. She was born into a genetically engineered world in which an attempt to perfect the species and make people immune to all disease has shortened human lifespan: A virus now kills women at the age of twenty and men at the age of twenty-five. Desperate to extend the family lineage, powerful families force young women into polygamous marriages. Rhine is one of three new brides who are held captive, but lavishly cared for, in a sprawling mansion. The three wives—Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily—live in a rich and seemingly perfect world filled with beautiful clothes, wonderful foods, and lush gardens. But danger lurks around the corner when Rhine develops a relationship with a house servant, Gabriel, and starts to suspect that her father-in-law is conducting mysterious research in the basement of the mansion in the name of finding an antidote. Rhine’s best chance of escaping is to win her husband Linden’s favor as his first wife and, together with Gabriel, plot her getaway.


    How might society be different if scientists could create a generation of human beings immune to all disease? Would such a world be ideal? Why or why not?


    Rhine is snatched off the streets by Gatherers and wakes up in a satin bed in a mansion owned by a House Governor. What does she remember about being taken captive? Why is she being held in the mansion? Why is she considered to be one of the lucky girls?

    In Rhine’s world, women die at the age of twenty and men die when they reach twenty-five. What accounts for this short lifespan? Why is early marriage encouraged by the wealthy?

    Who is Lady Rose and why is she ill? How does her character contribute to the story’s plot? To Rhine’s understanding of her new life?

    Describe Rhine’s life prior to being taken by the Gatherers. Who were her parents? Explain what happened to them. How did she and her twin brother, Rowan, survive on their own?

    Rhine initially feels disdain for Linden, her new husband and son of the House Governor. Why is she contemptuous? How do her feelings change as she gets to know him? What information does she eventually learn that enables her to see him in a different light? In what way is Linden a victim?

    Rhine is one of three new brides for Linden. Compare and contrast Rhine, Cecily, and Jenna. How does each view being forced into marriage? How do the wives grow together as time passes? How does each adjust to and/or cope with her new lifestyle?

    How does Rhine become Linden’s first wife? How does this role enable her to plan her escape?

    Rhine becomes attracted to Gabriel, a house servant. What draws them together and how is their relationship dangerous? How does Gabriel help Rhine?

    House Governor Vaughn claims to be working on an antidote that will cure future generations of the virus that kills young men and women in their prime years. What mysteries surround the basement of the mansion? What fears does Rhine have about his intentions?

    What physical feature sets Rhine apart from the other two new brides? Why might this physical attribute be desirable?

    Compare and contrast House Governor Vaughn and his son, Linden. How does each view the three wives?

    Rhine has multiple dreams in the story. How do the dreams contribute to the story and to the reader’s understanding of Rhine?

    One can argue that the mansion represents an ideal world. Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily have everything they can possibly imagine. They have stunning clothes and amazing foods to eat and a beautiful home with gardens. Holograms are even used to export them to other experiences and places. Are any of the three girls suited for this life? If so, who and why? In what way has Linden been sheltered by this lifestyle?

    When Rhine is discussing escaping with Gabriel, she says, “You’ve been captive for so long that you don’t even realize you want freedom anymore.” How might this statement apply to Cecily? How might it apply to Linden? Cite examples in the story in which Rhine is almost taken in by her new surroundings. What thoughts pull her back to reality?

    How do Rhine and Gabriel plot to escape? What character traits enable Rhine to go through with the plan?


    Research advances in human cloning and genetics. Prepare a presentation on the possibilities that exist today and the ethical questions these possibilities raise.

    Choose a media form (narrative, art, computer program, etc.) and create your own ideal world. What holograms would you have in your world? What would the people and the environment be like? What foods would exist? How would people spend their time?

    Research human trafficking in America. What organizations and aid exist in the U.S. for individuals who are held in bondage? How might we better educate people about human trafficking in the U.S.? Develop a class presentation on your findings.

    Read Sold by Patricia McCormick or a similar book on people being sold into human trafficking, prostitution, or otherwise being held against their will. What similarities do you find in the treatment of women and children? What differences exist?

    We sometimes read/hear news stories of individuals who have been kidnapped, and they do not seem to resist or attempt to escape (Patty Hearst, Elizabeth Smart). Reexamine the kidnapping and subsequent treatment of Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily. In reviewing the novel, prepare responses to the following questions for group discussion: How is each girl affected psychologically? How is each “groomed” to mold into her new life? How do each girl’s personality traits affect her thinking? How does each girl adjust or conform to her new life? Which girl is the easiest target and why?

    Guide written by by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.

    This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

    Customer Reviews

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    Wither 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 733 reviews.
    BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
    This book is the BOMB DIGGITY! For real. It totally exceeded my expectations and left me with wanting more. Not only was this book one unique read, it totally captured every part of me as I read it. I held my breathe as my eyes raced across the pages reading every emotion, every secret, every betrayal. For Rhine everything is fake. She is forced to be a bride to a man she has never met or know. Forced to lived in a nice prison with other sisters wives. Though her time is short, she will not live this way. She longs for her freedom and just wants to be home safe. With danger lurking around every corner, Rhine learns everything and anything, plays the role she needs to play in order to get out. This book is just WOW. It blew me away. Literally. I was so engrossed in the book, so connected with Rhine that I felt her angry, her pain, her longing for freedom. She was so strong. How she manages not to fall apart completely is beyond me. Poor thing had to just keep picking herself up and keep going. Rhine played her role so good, at times I thought that maybe she was giving in. That she would comply and just live the life she was given. But no, she always came back to remind herself of what is really at stake. Gabriel was nice touch to the book. He let Rhine true self come out and I loved learning about her through him. I don't want to give to much away, but man this book is just unexplainable. You just have to read it in order to understand what I am trying to say. Ms. DeStefano, your book is complete and total awesomeness. It is the best book of 2011. Ms. DeStefano did what books are supposed to do. Take you away for an adventure of a lifetime. And this adventure, is one that I will never forget.
    TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
    In the not too distant future, women are dying at the age of 20 and males by the age of 25. Only the First Generation can outlive them, and although many have tried to come up with an antidote for the virus that takes their young, so far.no one has been successful. In an effort to save the human race, young girls are abducted and forced to be sister wives who share one husband. Their goal? To produce as many children as possible before dying. After her parents are killed in a lab explosion, sixteen-year-old Rhine is abducted and forced to marry Governor Linden, who is twenty-years-old and approaching his twilight years. Rhine is a beauty with very unusual eyes. It's because of her eyes, and her likeness to another girl named Rose, that she is chosen as a bride. However, when she arrives at the house she realizes that she is only one of three new wives and that a fourth is on her deathbed. Although Governor Linden is actually quite likable, his father, Housemaster Vaughn is anything but! His presence in the house makes Rhine very uncomfortable and when one of her sister wives has a baby, Rhine becomes concerned over what is being done to the baby. Add to that her attraction to a handsome attendant by the name of Gabriel and Rhine finds herself conflicted over what she needs to do. Polygamy is a loaded topic and DeStefano tackles it successfully. At times, the idea of young, pregnant brides is disturbing, but with the human race dying out as it is, somehow the idea isn't so bad. The topic is handled delicately and there is nothing overly graphic or violent contained within these pages. I'd say that the target age range of 14+ is accurate. From an adult perspective, I found the book utterly readable and fun. There's the whole class struggle thing going on, as well as the conflict that being a sister-wife creates. It was a quick read, and the pages flew by and at the end I found myself looking forward to book #2. If you like to delve into YA now and then and like dystopian fiction but not necessarily the violence, then this might be a good book for you.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    It was cool how DeStefano created society to be "messed up" where girls and boys only live to a certain age, and some girls are taken. After reading the overview, I knew I had to get this book, and I wasn't disappointed! Unlike so many teen books, Wither is unique and unpredictable, containing no super natural characters..hallejuah! I recommend this novel, and I'm hoping for a sequel, and if there is one I know I will love it:)
    MissysReadsAndReviews More than 1 year ago
    I'll be honest . I'm not a big fan of dystopian books. There are exceptions of course but as a whole, they're not part of my preferred reading lists. Saying that, I will go ahead and say that Wither is already pretty high up on that list of exceptions. This story literally had me by the heartstrings from the very beginning and didn't let me go until the very bitter end. Now, I want to know more. There are so many questions that I have that I am assuming at this point in time will be answered in the upcoming books of the trilogy, so I'm not holding any marks against it until then. There were different stories weaved into the novel so intricately that none ever seemed out of place or misguiding in any way. Rhine is not only telling her story in the present as a sister wife, but you also get glimpses of her past as she tries so desperately to hold onto her memories of where she came from so she can keep her goal in mind - which is always to get back to her twin brother. Then there's the part of Rhine who is trying to win the favor of her husband, House Governor Linden, so she can gain more freedoms to help in her plan of escape. I must say that I hold a soft spot in my heart for Linden. He seems so innocent and sweet that, at times, I was like Rhine who was won over and thought on occasion that her life now wasn't so bad if she ran out of time and died. Gabriel, I like but I'd also like to know more about him. We know he's sweet and has feelings for Rhine, but he's not given enough "screen time" for my liking, which I hope will change in the upcoming books. The sister wives were also a good addition to the story. I love the friendship that bloomed between Jenna and Rhine throughout the novel. Jenna is that girl that you definitely want on your side, and the girl who I'd say you'd want because she's a fierce friend in her own ways. Cecily... is an iffy for me. I love that she developed and matured in the story. However, it really disturbed me how willing she was to be the perfect wife . at only thirteen. What she goes through at her age still nags at me, and leaves me feeling a little sick. Like I said, she matured through her experiences and I admire her choice at the end of the book - but I can't say she stole my heart like the other characters, though I'm prone to say it has a lot to do with her age and maturity level as well. Dystopian novels some times disturb me. This one was the same way. I'm 27 and I feel like I've barely experienced life. Here, in this world in the novel, girls die at 20 and boys at 25. I couldn't imagine being born into that world and really not having the chance to live. With that being said, Lauren Destefano did an incredible job at building her world and her characters. Although most of this novel is set in the house that was made to be Rhine's home, there's too many things going on for it to ever drift into a boring story. There's always something going on and, during the parts that may lull, there are stories of Rhine's past to fill in that void. I devoured this book in one sitting. While the ending seemed pretty perfect for the novel, it definitely leaves a lot of questions to be answered. But like I said, I'm sure those will be answered in the future books. It doesn't take away from this novel at all and I was satisfied with how this one wrapped up. I'm looking forward to the upcoming novels in the series.
    KikiD870 More than 1 year ago
    The plot: Wither is set in the future, in a world that somehow seems both futuristic and primitive at the same time. War has literally changed the world as we, the reader, know it. Modern science and technology have changed humanity, illusions and holograms having replaced reality and the humanity of relationships. The desperation that society feels is evident in the way it has changed and the lines between what is right and what is wrong have been thoroughly blurred. Although an set in an alternate reality, there was a very clear parallel between that world and our own. The alternate reality was fully believable as a real possibility for our future which made the entire story that much more intriguing. The writing: I thought the writing of this debut novel from a young author was exquisite. I was immediately drawn into the story and into the lives of the characters. The author excels at drawing out emotion from the reader and blends the surreal and reality seamlessly. The very first paragraph set the tone for the rest of the novel: "I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids. We sleep huddled together like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying." The characters: I love characters that I can fall in love with, root for, feel for, become involved with. The characters in Wither didn't disappoint. I liked the fact that no one character was pure, whether purely good or purely bad. The fact that the good and the bad, the selflessness and the selfishness, was a part of each character further demonstrated the theme that humanity had changed people. In different circumstances, maybe these people would have been different, but the reality of their world as they knew it changed how they thought, how they behaved. This made the characters far more relatable in the setting of the story. Emotional significance: I was drawn into the story from the moment I began reading. I didn't want to put it down once I started. I absolutely love a novel that calls you to it and makes you want more when you finish it. I love a novel that makes you feel all the things the characters are feeling and makes you care about those characters as if they were real. This novel did that for me! The conclusion: The ending of the novel didn't answer all the questions or tie up all the loose ends, but it wasn't supposed to. It gave enough to satisy, but left the way clear for the next book. I truly did not want the book to end and it saddens me that this, the first of three, isn't due out until the end of March. Why? Because that means it is going to be even longer until the next one comes out! Cover art: I know that you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover and I really don't, but sometimes a cover is so striking that it really hits me. Not only is the cover art of this book stunning, I love the fact that the image of the girl matches a scene within the book. Too many times, the covers seem to be unrelated to the story inside, but this one was perfect. I also loved the symbolism of the caged bird, a detail I didn't truly appreciate until I got farther into the story.
    OnlyAli More than 1 year ago
    This is an awesome book that I really enjoyed. I really wished that I didn't have to put it down. I think Lauren Destefano has been added to my authors list. Definitely can't wait for the next two!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Interesting story line - thinly developed. Flat writing. Uninspiring characters. Nice cover. The end.
    Love_makeup_and_reading More than 1 year ago
    I was a little weirded out by the overview of Wither but also very curious so I bought Wither for my nook. I read the whole book within two days. I could not stop reading and since I was sick and could not do much else but sit in bed I flew through the book. I love Jenna and Rhine,their bond is so beautiful they become like real sisters not just sister wives. I also liked Linded he really was kind to the girls and truly did love Rhine. I can't wait for the next book. I can't find the realse date sadly.
    missy1029 More than 1 year ago
    I had heard a lot about this book from other bloggers and when I got the opportunity to snatch it up I couldn't resist. It was not at all what expected and I am happy about that. It was so much more! The story takes place in the future where all females die at 20 and males at 25. Due to the short life span, and hope to find an antidote, the need for procreation is extremely high. In order to find women to make as brides men hire Gatherers to search for women they can marry. The Gatherers take the women against their will and they are forced to marry. Some of these girls can be taken as young as 13 years old. Most men have multiple wives giving them the chance for multiple children and thus society has a chance to live on and hopefully find a cure. We see the world through the eyes of Rhine, a 16 year old that is kidnapped to become a wife. She, along with 2 other sister wives have to learn to adapt to this new life. All 3 of them handle their situation with completely different mannerisms. They all go from one extreme to the next as far as how they feel about the situation that they find themselves in. Rhine is so eager to escape and get home to her twin brother who has no idea what has become of her. I don't think I have ever really felt so much for the characters. They were so well written. DeStefano makes you feel their heartache and their sadness. The story is both disturbing and completely fascinating. It was scary to think that this was a world they were living in. It captured my attention from beginning to the end. I was always wondering what would happen next and I was fearful for the well being of each of the characters. It was full of heartache and sadness, but there are sweet, hopeful moments as well. I was incredibly happy to find out that this was going to be a trilogy. I can't wait to find out what's in store in the next 2 books. This was all around fantastic read and I highly recommend it! I think the cover also deserves mentioning. How fantastic is it? I think it is absolutely beautiful!
    Ree_Anderson More than 1 year ago
    **I received this book free from the publisher.** Lauren DeStefano may have just become one of my favorite authors. She introduces the reader to a horrifyingly dark, dismal, and BELIEVABLE world from page 1 and continues to deliver throughout the novel. Rhine, the female protagonist, is a brutally real, honest, and deep character who is likely to appeal to most readers - or at least readers who like a woman with a brain in her head. The world is Earth, though not at we know it, and supposedly the only remaining continent is North America. Everywhere else is supposed decimated, though there are hints throughout the book that this may just be what the general population believes to be true, and is in fact NOT entirely accurate. Ms. DeStefano's characters, from the chef in the kitchen of the home in which Rhine lives to Rhine herself are all intricately woven into the story in such a way that they just -feel- real. Even Rowan, who we never actually meet, feels like he's got depth and substance. I absolutely love the level of detail that the author worked into her story - there was plenty to really paint a vivid picture of what is happening and where it is happening, but enough was left to the imagination so that each reader can color it with his or her own individual interpretation. It may sound cheesy and a trifle cliche, but I'd call this little dystopian beauty SPLENDID and absolutely delightful. I cannot wait for number two in the Chemical Gardens trilogy. (Would it be too corny to say that I may wither away while waiting? Ooo look at that alliteration, too!)
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is so good i could not put it down! This book is a must read!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I know people on here saying there is adult stuff in the book and there is, but im 14 and found it amazing and something i could not put down. It really is a really good book to read.
    Marcie77 More than 1 year ago
    Stop what you're doing and go and buy this book! I was completely blown away by this book. This novel had me hooked in the first few pages. Wither definitely falls under the category of "want to neglect everything just so I could read". This is a dystopian novel centered around a sixteen year old girl named Rhine. Rhine has grown up in a world where the average life span for a girl is 20 years and for a boy 25 years. When they reach this predetermined age, they develop a horrible virus that slowly kills them. Nobody knows what causes the virus and nobody knows how to cure it. The virus leaves destruction in it's wake. There are hundreds of thousands of orphans, girls are forced into prostitution or they are kidnapped to become wives to bear children. In the beginning of the story Rhine is kidnapped by a gather to become a wife. She wakes up to find herself in a gorgeous house. She has everything she could possible want except her freedom. Rhine realized early that to escape she'll have to play along, bide her time and wait for the perfect opportunity. I think the views of this society are represented well in the characters of this book. Cecily is a sister-wife who is under the illusion of that everything will work out. She is naive in many ways and is happy to be a wife. Jenna is under no illusion, she has surrendered to her fate. She is determined if she's going to die, it might as well be in style. Rhine is like a caged bird longing to be free. I really enjoyed all the characters in Wither. I love the way DeStefano slowly unraveled their past so that we could understand the characters more. The story line is compelling and mesmerizing, from the first to the last page. The world that DeStefano creates is very intriguing and mysterious. It's bleak at times and very moving at others. After I finished this book I immediately wanted to know when the next one is going to come out. There's no word yet but I'll keep you posted. Overall I love, love, love this book and strongly recommend it.
    PageGirl More than 1 year ago
    I love the idea here. Just as society thinks they have scientifically generated a perfect life span, they are slapped in the face with ruining future generations. Those first 20 years must have been glorious. Now children are left orphaned and as time marches on we have a huge age gap in society with what is now called "first generations" entering old age and all the young dying in their twenties. Very intriguing concept. I enjoyed the main character Rhine, but truthfully she was a little boring and the supporting cast proved to hold more entertainment value. I love the commentary on how easily one can slip into comfort when ones needs are being met and how we can allow our own selves to be fooled if we want to. I also like the idea that how bad a situation really is, all depends on your past experiences and how good or bad things were before. All of this cannot be expanded upon without revealing any spoilers, but these are definite running themes through out the story. While the writing was fine, DeStenfano repeats herself...a lot! In the end she was still stating characteristics of characters that were already well established and believable. When you tell me flat out that someone is immature and selfish and then you show them being immature and selfish, you don't need to keep repeating that they are immature and selfish before each example of them being immature and selfish. See repeats are annoying. Over all good story but I just felt it needed some...tightening!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoyed this read. I've been on quite the dystopian kick these days, and I am not sure why because they are so depressing! I think I enjoyed it so much, aside from the good writing, because its not a far stretch from what could be reality... well it is but is not. Anyway, its worth the read(:
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this book. If u love romance and adventure this book is for u!
    luna_loves_books More than 1 year ago
    I found this book very interesting, so much that I felt I was there. One of the greatet books I've read.
    sarahp0 More than 1 year ago
    In a world where men die at the age of twenty-five and women die at the age of twenty, women face many problems in their daily life. Scientist try and create some kind of anti-dote to cure the short lived lives for the up coming generations. While this happens Gatherers capture young girls who are able to conceive babies and either sell them into a polygamy household so the population does not die off or the Gatherers kill them. When Rhine, a sixteen year old young girl, is captured she is brought to these “Ethiopian” mansion where she and two other girls marry their husband. Rhine has everything she could ever ask for except for freedom and she was determined to get that. Her and an attendant she has began to develop feelings for plan their escape to live in the world of freedom and are successful in fulfilling the plan.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Wither is a story about love, torture, perserverence and friendship. In the future. STOP! EVEN THOUGH IT SOUNDS BORING IT IS THE BEST BOOK EVER! Now keep on reading :) The virus has been affecting the population, killing off the children of a perfect generation of humans. Girls die at age 20 and boys at age 25. So, the richest of the richest have turned to abducting young girls off the streets, taking them in and, of course, making babies. When Rhine is kidnapped and taken to a house, a mansion, to be married off to some rich guy, she doesn't know what to do with herself. All she can think of is escaping and getting back to her twin brother, a fellow orphan like herself. Her new husband, Linden, isn't half bad. But perhaps that is overshadowed because Rhine shares him with two other wives, not like she's jealous or anything. But as she strives to become Linden's favorite wife, the only way she can actually have a shot at escaping, Rhine discovers that her heart belongs to somon else, the servent, Gabriel. This book was really great, and though it might not sound exciting, it really is. You can read it over and over like I did and not get tired of it.
    Elemillia More than 1 year ago
    In this futuristic dark and somber young adult fiction, females only live to the age of twenty and men to the age of twenty-five. Cursed by a virus which has no antidote, the fate of humanity is on the brink of extinction. As a result, Gatherers kidnap young girls and force them into polygamous marriages. Rhine, the main character, finds herself in such a situation when she is taken to marry House Governor Linden, one among the four new wives. In parallel, there is a also a race for science to find a fix for this virus which claims the lives of people so early in life. After hearing so much about this book, and after reading so many reviews online, this dystopia had to be read. Entering into it, there was a slight worry. The beginning is a bit strange and boring. In comparison to all the praise the book had gotten, the feeling of dissapointment was slowly seeping in. Page by page, though, the book began to take on a surprising form, indeed a vision by DeStefano that everyone had been talking about. Throughout the whole book there is a sense that Lauren DeStefano is truly a visionary. It is definitely a book that grows on you, and takes you on a journey you maybe never expected. Nonetheless, there are moments in the book when you feel the temptation to skip a few pages since there is a bit of redundancy. There is something unique about the word choices for this book. Words like 'burrowed,' 'sullied,' ' quells,' 'foraging,' 'wilted,' 'succumb,' 'protrude,' ' crumple,' are among the few to set the setting into this gothic and dark vision that DeStefano intended. The tone of the novel is reminiscent a little bit of old classics. Very smart choice of language. Yet, the novel fell short. Lot of reviews claim this young-adult piece of fiction to take the reader through a lot of imagery that DeStephano so cleverly creates. Far from it, it felt like the journey was more through thoughts and feelings rather than imagery. It would have made for even a better book, possibly, if the subject of genetics and science was more thoroughly carried out. This was the highlight of scientific bacground. "Seventy years ago science perfected the art of children. There were complete cures for an epidemic known as cancer, a disease that could affect any part of the body and that used to claim millions of lives. Immune system boosts given to the new-generation children eradicated allergies and seasonal ailments, and even protected against sexually contracted viruses. Flawed natural children ceased to be conceived in favor of this new technology. A generation of perfectly engineered embryos assured a healthy, sucessful population. Most of that generation is still alive, approaching old age gracefully. They are fearless first generation, practically immortal. No one could ever have anticipated the horrible aftermath of such a sturdy generation of children. While the first generation did, and still does, thrive, something went wrong with their children, and their children's children." Fantastic premise. Why not elaborate on why that happened? Why is there no antidote? What has been tried and how has it failed? The story just gets worse and worse and plenty of questions get left unanswered. While the book is unique in its vision, style, and tone, it falls short quite a few ways. I hope the next in the series will give more to chew on this subject. Why you should read this book: If you are a fan of young adult books, this is definitely one you don't want to miss. It's quite a unique vision for a dystopia, but be aware that you might feel some dissapointment with it. Chance also are that you might be completely taken by it. You will either love it or be seriously ambiguous about it.
    My_Life_is_a_Notebook More than 1 year ago
    I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Despite DeStefano’s world seeming to be even less of a believable concept than that of Ally Condie’s Matched (whose world building issues were discussed at length here), I believed in it—which I hadn’t believed I would. How could anyone make both extremely short life spans and polygamous marriages work, right? Apparently, DeStefano—very well, I might add. But onto that in a minute… Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first, shall we? There were two things that really got to me: 1) Rhine and Gabriel and 2) the “tempo” of the plot. The relationship between Rhine and Gabriel might have been more of an issue with my personal taste, but it just felt forced. First they’re friends and then they’re kissing and then they’re friends and then they’ve got their hands on each other and then they’re friends again. I was honestly quite baffled by their relationship. It felt like a sincere friendship, but the story seemed to be trying to force it into something more. Clearly these two have a relationship coming in the next book, but I would have preferred to see them as just honest friends in Wither (which was done well in the spots where they were just friends). The tempo of the plot was a much bigger issue, though there’s really less to say on it. There was certainly things happening and I could barely stop reading, but the book never affected by heart rate if you know what I mean. There were certainly points where the plot got to me, but they were more flashes than anything else. But you can bet your life I’ll be reading the second book in this trilogy, titled Fever and expected February 21, 2012. Why? Because of everything DeStefano did right, and her way with words. Perhaps her way with words is one reason the plot never got to my heart rate—sometimes short and succinct are better and more gripping, aspiring writers!—but I refuse to put too much blame there because she has a way with words. Descriptions, analogies, etc—I wanted to write them down and steal them. Also, polygamy. No matter your feelings on the subject, that’s a tough thing to write about. DeStefano never blinks. You’re never given the feeling that the marriages are right, but they never feel contrived either. How she managed to make polygamy feel like a societal convention but wrong at the same time is beyond me and I like it. All and all, I think dystopian fans should definitely give Wither a shot. Unlike Matched, which was very romance oriented, Wither felt much deeper and plot oriented, with just enough romance to keep romance lovers happy but not turn off people who think YA romance should be burnt. Relationships in the book—such as the friendship between Rhine and Gabriel and the camaraderie between the sister wives—are excellently written and feel decidedly real. It hints at moral questions but doesn’t get preachy. In a nutshell, I found Wither to be a fine addition to the dystopian titles exploding off the shelves right now. If you enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth and/or Matched, I totally recommend that you give it a shot.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    In my opinion, some parts of the plot can be confusing. One, because Linden has three wives. Not divorced. Not cheating. He just has three wives. One young, one medium(aka Rhine), and one oldish. It was okay but something about this book was off. Plus the fathee of linden is so freaky scary. If you read this,youll know. Well, wha i loved best about this book was the cover. It was just absolutely gorgeus. If you look closed each item circled on the cover symbolizes something about the book. Like her wedding ring is circled which means shes married to Linden. The bird in the cage symbolizes she wants to break free from you know the wraths and rules of linden and his dad.its so cool. Youll figure it out if you read it.
    Geko2 More than 1 year ago
    I'm not so sure what the author was thinking when she wrote this. The plot is nice, a post-apocalypse North America, a teen fighting for survival, family, and love. The new generation only lasts so long, so they either are fighting to live or pampered in a luxurious mansion. The young men who are rich enough buy brides - teenagers. The main character is one of those purchased slaves, along with two other girls, one only thirteen years old. Married. A little sketchy. Not for middle school kids. Overall, it's written nicely with enough suspense and character development, but not one I would buy. Or like. Or recommend.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Our class thinks this is a fantastic book,with well developed characters and an interesting plot.Our class would recomend this book.
    Dazzlamb More than 1 year ago
    We are directly thrown into the story of Rhine, who is captured with two other young women, Jenna and Cecily, to please a rich doctor’s son, always locked away in a gigantic house surrounded by an even larger garden. There are only a few different characters, nonetheless their possible reactions to each other are always unpredictable. Rhine felt like a very authentic character to me, really easy to get acquainted with. She is not only exceptional in looks, but also differs emotionally from her kidnapped co-brides. I like her name, Rhine, originating from the European river, lets always associations pop up in my head, because I cross this river almost every day, quiet funny. DeStefano has a talent to portray exceptional characters full of contrasts. Rhine and her fellow bride sisters couldn’t be more different. Jenna is special for her compassion and loyalty, Cecily for her childish and naïve personality.But beside these innocent young girls, there are also cruel and malicious characters that cause great conflicts. Wither offers many different types of love stories, although the major romance might develop between Rhine and Gabriel. Still that doesn’t keep me from analysing other relationships between our given characters and questioning their morals. We get to know our characters very well, relationships are featured, but a general love story comes off badly. I realize that under the given circumstances a grand and romantic love story between Rhine and Gabriel is not really possible or inappropriate and so I hope for deeper insights in their thoughts and feelings in Wither’s sequel. All characters are always circling around one setting and the other characters. Over almost the whole novel not much happens and I rather see Wither as a character study, like an initial experiment that has potential to lead to larger events and purposes in its sequel. Probably the action is hold back so that the main focus lies on the characters and the dystopian world. The setting and even actions are limited, the pace is rather slow. Sometimes we get glimpses of Rhine’s life back in freedom, how she lived with her twin brother (who has become one of my favourite characters without even meeting him), but that is not enough to still my desire to explore Wither’s world. Wither is set in a dystopian world, futuristic… and sick. All its new inventions and beautiful illusions cannot hide the fact that humanity’s situation is a sad one. Men only got a life expectation of 25 years, women 20 years. That idea is thrilling, adds urgency to the character’s actions and is scary at the same time. I always wondered how the story is supposed to develop with such a limited time span to develop actions, as our protagonist is 16-years-old, she has got four years left till she dies a painful death. Furthermore thinking of all the possibilities for our human race and that I would already be dead in such a world made me really sad. Although DeStefano didn’t make me turning page after page restlessly, she had me emotionally involved. Wither’s world is a super interesting construct that leaves many possibilities for future events. There is science and medical research involved, really interesting disciplines. No hard violence, sex or drugs are discussed, still this novel felt like a heavy read, because it deals with the social morals of our present society in comparison with Wither’s society. Polygamy, kidnapping and stealing from the dead are r