Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Friday, June 15, 2012

Plot Summary:
In this alternate reality, the lives of men and women have been shortened by a deadly virus. After eradicating cancer, and other detrimental diseases, the first generation of disease-free humans started reproducing and their offspring were stricken with a genetic disorder that only grants each female child a life-span of twenty years and a male child a life-span of twenty-five years. For Rhine, she lives alone with her twin brother, Rowan, and she is never out of his sight. Since the disease has drastically slowed the growth of the human population, young girls are being abducted from the streets and their homes by the Gatherers who sell them to rich men for breeding purposes; those who don't meet the requirements are murdered on the spot. After being abducted by the Gatherers,  Rhine is sold to a man named Linden Ashby, the House Governor, along with two other girls: Jenna and Cecily. Convinced that Linden is a horrible monster who kidnaps young girls, Rhine wants nothing to do with him. However, Rhine finds comfort and solace in a boy named Gabriel, who is the apprentice of Housemaster Vaughn, House Govenor Linden's father. What Linden and Rhine don't know is that Vaughn is obsessed in finding an remedy to the fatal disease that will claim his son's life. When Lady Rose dies, Vaughn experiments on her body to find this cure, which is not only immoral, but Linden has no idea that his father is going behind his back to find this so-called cure. As time goes by, Rhine starts to see Linden's true nature, which not only changes her opinion of him, but her feelings for Gabriel make her place in the mansion unbearable. Rhine's only option is to escape and find Rowan before it's too late.

Critical Evaluation:
I could not, whatsoever, put this book down. Not only is the premise ingenious, but the idea of shorter life-spans is terrifying. DeStefano incorporates very real issues such as: the sex slave trade, genetic experimentation, and wide-spread panic. What's even more shocking is that this future could actually happen if science and ethics aren't treated with the respect they deserve. As much as we want to be rid of diseases such as cancer, at what cost are we willing to pay to be disease-free. In this world, viable embryos are genetically altered to create, what I consider, of a clone minus the mishaps. For those who aren't aware, clones don't live long because of their copied DNA, which explains why Rhine and her peers are dying so young. Another important issue, which is, in my opinion, disgusting, is the routine kidnapping of girls to be sold off to rich families to produce offspring. Not only is this morally wrong, but illegal in every way possible. For Rhine, her feelings about being in the Ashby household are true and legitimate, which not only encourages her right to want to escape, but the reader will cheer her on in every way possible. However, the escape is very bittersweet because Rhine starts developing feelings for Linden. What we don't realize is that Linden, himself, is a prisoner of the mansion and that his own father is the reason why he is ignorant of the ways of the world. The sister wives are very important characters because their presence is what keeps Rhine sane after being separated from her twin brother. Lastly, Gabriel was the unexpected glimmer of hope in Rhine's life. It is him that inspires her to be free because she wants to be able to love him without having to keep it a secret. Rhine also wants to show him the beauty of freedom, which compels her to take him with her. Clearly, there are a lot of heavy issues that have created this sad world, but it is the power of the human spirit to want be free, to love, and to live. I am so looking forward to the next installment!

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
Lauren DeStefano was born in New Haven, Connecticut and has never traveled far from the east coast. She received a BA in English from Albertus Magnus College, and has been writing since childhood. She made her authorial debut by writing on the back of children's menus at restaurants and filling up the notepads in her mom's purse. Her very first manuscript was written on a yellow legal pad with red pen, and it was about a haunted shed that ate small children.

Now that she is all grown up (for the most part), she writes fiction for young adults. Her failed career aspirations include: world's worst receptionist, coffee house barista, sympathetic tax collector, and English tutor. When she isn't writing, she's screaming obscenities at her Nintendo DS, freaking her cats out with the laser pen, or rescuing thrift store finds and reconstructing them into killer new outfits.

Teen Romance, Teen Dystopian Thrillers

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9&up

Books Similar to Wither:

  Awards & Recognition:
  •  Starred Review Publisher's Weekly (1/10/2011)

 Reviews from
A “harrowing debut . . . DeStefano has an observant and occasionally pitiless eye, chronicling the cruelties, mercies, and inconsistencies of her young characters. . . . It will be intriguing to see how DeStefano develops [the larger world] as this promising trilogy progresses.”
– *PW STARRED review, January 10, 2010

"Creepy and elegant, shocking and romantic, dreadful and rewarding, and delivers unexpected twists. It'll leave you longing for book two."
--Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of the WAKE trilogy and CRYER'S CROSS

“Lauren DeStefano crafts an all too believable future. I loved the world, the romance, the writing -- exactly the kind of book I've been craving to read.”
--Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH

"This beautifully-written debut fantasy, with its intriguing world-building, well-developed characters and intricate plot involving flashbacks as well as edge-of-the-seat suspense, will keep teens riveted to the plight of Rhine and her sister wives. The compelling cover will draw them in and the cliffhanger ending will leave them eagerly awaiting volumes two and three of The Chemical Garden Trilogy. This thought-provoking novel will also stimulate discussion in science and ethics classes."--VOYA

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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