“Wither” by Lauren DeStefano

"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano
"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano

“Wither,” Like Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” only with crappier world building and more wives!

That’s not to say Lauren DeStefano’s “Wither” isn’t good— it is. It’s just difficult to compete with Margaret Atwood.

“Wither,” the first book in “The Chemical Garden Trilogy,” takes place in a world where all men live until age 25 and women live until 20. Since women are constantly dying, girls are kidnapped at a really young age and forced into polygamous marriages. It’s like one of those “Buy a wife from India!” spam  messages — only it’s reality, and they’re not from India.

Rhine Ellerly, the 16-year-old main character, stupidly forgets to lock her door or something and ends up getting kidnapped and forced to be sisterbrides with two other women to this guy named Linden. He’s rich and famous and his dad does psycho experiments on his former dead wives. Rhine develops a crush on a servant boy named Gabriel. Oh, and she spends all her time trying to escape, as any good kidnapped girl stuck in a polygamous marriage would do.

“Wither” sucks you in. The writing style is engaging; the plot is interesting and the characters are fun to read about. (Yes, even in their stupid moments.)

If you can ignore details and focus on the overall story, stop reading this review now and just go pick up the book. It’s a great read that really captivates you and I can’t wait to read its sequel, “Fever,” coming out February 2012.

If you can’t ignore the details, don’t read this book. Until a friend of mine pointed it out to me, I hadn’t noticed the giant hole in the world-building of the book. Apparently they have weaponry so hot it can melt the Arctic — and they did! — but they don’t have, you know, giant floods that would logically follow the sudden influx of water. Oh, and despite the fact that women outlive men in almost every society, they die first from this really weird virus that appeared out of nowhere and started killing people. (The characters in this society are incapable of finding a cure.) In a world where women’s value comes from simply being able to keep the population growing, we have women being murdered in mass quantities because they’re not “bride material.” Lovely.

I’m willing to look past the little details because the rest of the book is good — I do like the characters, and the way it’s written makes it really hard to stop reading. But if you love world building, I’d stick with some other young adult dystopians. (“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, anybody?)