"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano (Debut Author)

Lauren DeStefano brings a raw, powerful voice to the teen scene with the launch of her debut novel, Wither. She holds nothing back: The book is gritty and dark, harsh and unyielding. In a Dystopian world where everything has gone wrong, death runs rampant and freedom is an illusion.

In “our” world, we race to find the cure to serious diseases such as cancer and dream of the day when one will be discovered. What happens when one is, when genetic engineering is perfected, when we have an ideal race? What if achieving perfection has horrific repercussions? In Wither, this is exactly what happened. A generation of children immune to all illness and frailty was born, however, when it came time for them to have children, something went wrong, something not discovered until twenty years later when it was too late to make corrections.

For some unknown reason, females now die upon reaching the tender age of 20 and their male counterparts follow them once they hit 25. Nobody knows why. There is no cure.

In a world where no one ages, there’s less emphasis on schooling, fewer new homes, less people who care about tomorrow. To ensure that the human race doesn’t die out, healthy teenage girls are kidnapped and forced to marry, then conceive, though they’ll never live to see their children mature. Rhine is one such casualty. At sixteen, she is stolen away from her twin brother and the only life she’s ever known, whisked away to an impenetrable mansion that’s impossible to escape. There, she’s forced to marry twenty-year-old Linden Ashby, along with two other captured girls. Linden’s father, Housemaster Vaughn, brought him three new wives to replace his childhood sweetheart, Rose, who is lying on her deathbed, consumed by the virus with no cure in sight.
Rhine’s only wish is to escape and return to her twin. She hates Linden and his father for imprisoning her and swears she’ll never give in. Instead, she begins a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, one where she will play the part of a perfect, obedient wife, all the while waiting for a chance to escape. Things grow more complicated as she finds herself growing more attached to her sister wives, developing strong feelings for a servant named Gabriel, and learning more about the sinister plot lurking beneath the surface at the Ashby mansion.

Wither hooks you from page one with its strong language and vivid imagery, consisting of a scene so intense, readers are instantly drawn in. The story refuses to let go once you’re in its thrall. While there were slower, more drawn-out areas in the text, the story elements more than made up for this. With the foundation set in place, DeStefano sets up the world readers will explore in the next two books of The Chemical Garden Trilogy . I, for one, can’t wait to see where she’s going, especially with all the possibilities available at the novel’s end.

The cover art for Wither is one of my favorites of 2011—and possibly ever in Teen Literature. It’s absolutely breath-taking and full of symbolism. The model is supposed to be Rhine in her wedding dress—pink eye shadow and all. In fact, that little bit of pink is pulled out of the image and used in the typography. I love the way there are so many geometric shapes boxing everything in and reflecting the way Rhine is held prisoner. There’s a circle highlighting her face, her wedding ring, and even a bird that symbolizes the way Rhine is caged. Even the title, Wither, is boxed in, the ‘W’ pulled away from ‘ither.’ Lauren DeStefano’s name and the series title act as bars to the cage holding the title and model hostage. Inside the novel, we see more of this gorgeous design, from the chapters to the page numbers to the dedication page to the quote from T.S. Eliot. Nothing is left unscathed; every single page of the book boxes in the reader with a reminder of Rhine’s horrendous plight.

(Sorry for the low quality. I shot these photographs at night and was too lazy to go hook up my scanner...Trust me, in person, they look GORGEOUS!)

The design is gorgeous, like nothing else I’ve seen. I love the way this is on Every. Single. PAGE. Designer Lizzy Bromley did an amazing job.
With its dark themes and harsh realities, Wither isn’t a book for everyone. If, however, you’re a reader that enjoys Dystopian fiction or innovative new ideas, Wither is absolutely worth your time. What a stunning debut novel!

Still not sure if you want to read Wither? Check out a teaser I recently posted here!

And before you leave me...do you want to see the new book trailer floating around? Yes, I'm sure you do! It captures the essence of Wither *so* well.

...Are you excited yet?

[Review based on ARC edition courtesy of Publisher; all included photographs subject to change in final version (but I hope not!)]

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

[This entry is part of Bookish Ardour's Reading Challenges' Dystopian Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]


  1. This one definitely sounds like something that needs to be on my shelf. And I agree with you, cover art is breathtaking.

    Yeah I zipped right through The Hunger Games. Amazing I tell ya. Absolutely amazing.

  2. first of all, bonnie, your comments on my posts TOTALLY made my day! seriously. i can't wait to keep up with your reviews, either! :)
    your so right about the first scene--SO INTENSE! i dont remember the exact line that ended the first scene but it was something like this: 'it was the first of many more gunshots'. lauren definitely knows how to write that sort of stuff really well!
    i cant believe i forgot how to mention the beeaauuutiful cover in my review. and the inside graphics are stunning, too. the quote by t.s. eliot--wow.
    okay, yeah, this is a long comment, but oh well. love this review!<3

  3. Fantastic review! I couldn't have said it better - you summed up this novel perfectly. I was blown away by Wither - I STILL can't get the story out of my head and it's been weeks since I read it. I'm so excited to see what Lauren has planned for us in the next two novels... must prepare my heart for them :)

  4. @ Wild Irish Rose: YAY! I'm so glad you liked The Hunger Games. It's definitely one of my favorite series in recent years. How did you like Mockingjay? Personally, I loved it, but I know many who hated it...

    @ Aleeza: I'm so glad my comments made you happy. Your posts made ME happy! We like so many of the same books and both suffer from "aspiring author syndrome." I think we'll get along quite well!

    I know, isn't the beginning of Wither intense? I passed my ARC off to a co-worker and I came into the breakroom when she was ten pages into it and all she could do was "wow" over the beginning, too! She finished it the next day. Now a third co-worker is reading it! So gripping! Can't wait for book 2... I hope the covers for 2 and 3 are even better!

    @ Brodie: I know what you mean. There are still parts of Wither that come to me from time to time. This and Delirium are definitely the two stand-outs to come to the Dystopian genre since The Hunger Games. Not that there haven't been other good ones, b/c there have. These two just...stand out. Ugh, and I know. I hate trilogies. I have to wait three years to find out what happens? Totally hate being strung along, yet I do it to myself time and again...

  5. This book looks so good. I just can't wait to read it.

  6. Wither was my favorite 2011 Debut Author so far this year. It was the strangest book for me, just because I was so swept away by the writing style. This gal is very talented.

    As for Rhine's relationship with Linden, its so strange, even though I understood why she had such strong reasons to hate him, I kept wanting her to like him. Weird huh?


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