Wither (Chemical Garden, Book 1)
Simon & Schuster (US & CA: 22nd March 2011); HarperCollins Voyager (AU: 2nd May 2011; UK: 4th August 2011)
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A virus kills females at age twenty and males at age twenty-five. Grabbed from their homes and off the streets, teenage girls are gathered into vans. Some are sold to wealthy gentlemen, others into prostitution.
The rest are shot dead.
Still, sixteen-year-old orphan Rhine Ellery doesn’t feel lucky when she’s brought to a mansion where preparations are being made for her wedding. But she’s not alone.
Linden Ashby’s first wife, Rose, is on her deathbed, serving as a symbol for what’s ahead for the new wives. Rhine befriends her, but only much later learns the truth of a devastating event in Rose’s life.
It would’ve been easy to cast Linden as the villain, but instead he’s more of an innocent – despite that he consensually impregnates his youngest wife. Linden’s a broken-hearted pawn trying to find reasons to live, and with help he rediscovers his passion for architecture.
Eighteen-year-old Jenna has resigned herself to life in the mansion, in this marriage. At first she may not seem to leave much of an impression, but that soon changes. The strong bond she forms with her sister wives reinforces my theory that fiction’s most fascinating relationships are not those between lovers.
Thirteen-year-old Cecily is genuinely excited when it comes to her marriage, though she’s not keen sharing Linden with her sister wives. Though she’s always one for drama, she’s forced to grow up when she becomes pregnant, and it’s so sad when Cecily tries, and fails, to bond with her child. That she’s only a child herself makes it even harder to read.
Rhine only meant to earn the trust of her husband to aide an escape. She didn’t plan on loving him or forming a tight bond with her sister wives. She also didn’t expect the massive betrayal.
This future-Gothic novel has it all: polygamy, a wedding, deaths, a birth, a natural disaster, family secrets, betrayal, friendship, diabolical science, a spooky basement, and beautiful illusions. Interpersonal conflicts ensure the tension stays taut and the drama high. Horrors are inferred rather than described, and being Book 1 in a trilogy there’s a lot left unexplained – particularly the science. Though it seems it won’t be set at the mansion, hopefully Fever will be as hazardous and devastating in its own right. Clear your calendar for Lauren DeStefano’s first book – no need for TV when Wither‘s drama is this riveting!