Book Review: Wither (Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings.

Release Date: March 22, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Borrowed from Natalie

It's been a while since I read a truly stalker-worthy book, but boy, Wither was stalker-worthy.  It was so good that I stayed up late---on a work night!---to finish it, because I just couldn't stand waiting to find out how it ended.  Even now, two weeks later, I can't stop thinking about it.

The world DeStefano has created is so haunting.  What makes it so good is the fact that it is utterly believable.  Humans have altered genetic so much that mutations have started.  Now no one lives past the age of 25 before succumbing to a deadly virus.  Males contract the virus after their 25th birthday, females at the age of 20.  This shortened life span places a focus on preventing extinction of the human race.  Young girls are sold into polygamous marriages and forced to start bearing children when they are as young as 13 years old.

Rhine is one of those girls.  Snatched from her quiet life with her twin brother, she is sold into marriage with Linden.  At first, I hated Linden.  I secretly wanted him to contract the virus early and die.  But then, he started to grow on me.  What really endeared him to me was the fact that he was so clueless.  He was simply a pawn of his father, Housemaster Vaughn.  Housemaster Vaughn was such a creepy character.  He gave me chills, and DeStefano did an excellent job at developing his character.

My favorite part of Wither was the relationship between the sister wives.  It was so complex: filled with camaraderie, resentment towards authority, and rivalry.  I never knew what to expect out of Cecily or Jenna.  Each sister wife has her own relationship with their husband Linden.  Cecily and Jenna are resigned to their fate, though, while Rhine is not content to take things lying down.

Natalie's going to kill me for saying this, but Linden was a Peeta for me.  Weak.  Needing someone to look after him.  I have the feeling that Linden will grow a backbone later in the series, but right now he is totally unappealing to me.  I liked Gabriel, and triumphed in the ending of the book.

I absolutely cannot wait for book two in this series.  I would recommend Wither to fans of dystopia and any fan of YA fiction.  It was an excellent read!


  1. Great review :)

    Get her Natalie ;)

  2. Sorry, Kelli but I'm with Natalie on this one. Linden was SO creepy and had no mind of his own. I couldn't help but cringe every time he appeared on the page. I thought the romance with Gabriel to be a bit flat too. I do agree that this book is haunting and hypnotic. I'm looking forward to see what is going on outside of the mansion.

  3. So glad you enjoyed this book! I can't wait to read Fever!


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