Summary (from book jacket):
Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
Wither was not what I was expecting, it was better.
The author thrusts readers into the future, a world where life ends at such a ripe age. Because of this new world, drastic measures have been taken – girls are kidnapped and placed into marriage in order to keep up the population until an antidote can be found. While it is a glimpse into the future, the ways of this novel’s world clearly reflect the world’s past. It is this world that will keep readers engaged, turning the page to see where the author will lead us next.
The character focus in this novel is on Rhine and her want, her need, for escape from her husband, from this life that has been forced on her. Readers enter the world with her, from the moment she is taken to the moment she is prepared to walk down the aisle to…well, I will not spoil it for you.
What is fascinating about Rhine’s character is that she is a plotter, not a girl of action. She waits, she watches, she plots for escape. She wins over the favor of her new husband and her sister wives, and while Rhine is forced into marriage with Linden, it is his character that I carried the most sympathy for. I cannot say more without revealing plot points, but let me just say that the author was really tugging at my heart strings with him. He and Rhine have more in common than Rhine wants to admit, and I hope to see his character in the sequel.
While the focus is on Rhine, the heart of the novel is her relationship with her sister wives – Jenna and Cecily. This bond of “sister wiveshood” is unique. Upon Rhine’s arrival the last thing on her mind is these two other brides, but by novel’s end we see a change. It is in these relationships that readers will learn who Rhine really is and what motivates her. It is this bond that will develop Rhine’s character deeper, offering readers an understanding as to what true sacrifice looks like, at least in Rhine’s world.
I found the plot was nicely paced, especially for a debut. Sometimes debut novels are a bit slow to the start and make a mad dash to the finish, but Wither is not like that. This book thrusts readers right in from page one and holds on tight until the finish.
There were many questions I had while reading this novel and the author did answer quite a few. There are others that remain unanswered, so I am anxious to know if those questions are answered. I read a few reviews where unanswered questions bothered the reader, but let me say this: not questions can be answered. I learned this from reading what JK Rowling had to say about unanswered questions with her series. Sometimes those questions are not answered because they are not truly important to the plot. Readers feel those questions are important while the writer does not. I will be curious to see if the author satisfies those readers with her sequel, or if those questions will still be unresolved. Either way, I really enjoyed the novel, and I highly recommend it to lovers of YA and lovers of dystopia.