Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tea Time: Wither

So I'm kind of changing the way I do reviews, but only extremely slightly. Basically, I cut out judging and rating the covers because I'd like to focus, instead, on the writing of the actual writer, instead of lumping the entire product together (I do find covers to be extremely important when it comes to a decision of reading a books; basically, I actually judge books by their covers). For details on how I conduct my reviews, check out my page on reviews.

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**, Lauren DeStefano

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

Narrative-This book is told from the first person POV in the perspective of our wonderful protagonist, Rhine.

If ya'll read my review for PERFECT RUIN, you might remember my mention at how adorably simple Destefano's writing style is, while at the same time not being too simple (as in: it's totally appropriate for the category of YA). Once again, she pulls it off: a simple voice that relays the wants and fears of Rhine. Her prose isn't overly descriptive, but at the same time she pulls off relaying this Wonderland-type setting to the reader, and tying it in with the narrator's ultimate desire to escape.

Ultimately, it's easy to get lost in, which, to me, is a fantastic quality.

Plot-What interested me most about this plot was the fact that I had absolutely no clue what DeStefano would do with it. It's also such a different concept compared to basically every other book I've seen recently that I knew I'd read it eventually.

The premise is ultimately pretty simple: the protagonist, Rhine, must escape her new home (basically a prison) and her new husband (from a forced marriage) in order to travel back to her home and reunite with her brother. This is the basic, overarching arc of the novel.

Another arc: her budding relationship/romance with the servant, Gabriel (as well as her conflicting emotions concerning her new husband).

However, what particularly struck me (and that I absolutely loved) was the focus that was put on Rhine's relationship with her sister wives: Jenna and Cecily.All three of them are completely and totally different, and each of them have different goals that ultimately drive the story. Each of these characters and their decisions were woven into the plot so tightly that while there weren't too many external events, enough was happening within the house and between the characters (including the husband and the husband's father) that there was never a single moment that I knew where the story was heading.

I absolutely loved this aspect of it; while the whole novel was set off by a big event, much of the novel was fueled by a sort of internal politics that covered a very real fear of becoming yet another tool in the race for discovering a cure for this disease. There's also a really interesting exploration of love and acceptance: one character wants nothing to do with her new husband; another will do anything to please him and become the perfect wife (even being the first to carry a child, at the young age of 13); and then there's Rhine, who's willing to use her husband in order to get what she wants. But with her growing understanding of him, her opinion changes.

Maybe this ultimately sounds a bit muddled, but the bottom line is that I think I even enjoyed the plot arc of one of the sister wives more than I enjoyed Rhine's: Cecily was such a sweet character, but totally taken advantage of due to the world she lives in due to a fantasy the world's fed her basically all her life.

So that's another thing: the world building in this book wasn't exactly outlined and described in the "traditional" sense, I suppose, but rather the reader gets to see it through the eyes of three different girls who came from three different places, getting to see not only overlapping facts but the results of three different backgrounds clashing in one place.

Okay, I think that's enough of my incessant rambling. Basically: be aware that there's not a lot of "major" things happening; the external world almost disappears, and instead the plot is very character-driven, their relationships and secrets pushing it forward. Don't expect too much action, but if you want to read a novel about people and their experiences and their motives, then go for it because by putting the characters in such an incredibly drastic world there's no telling what could happen.

Characters-This book largely focuses on three characters: Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily. As mentioned above, their most interesting traits stem from their own background: Rhine is an orphan who lived with her brother, Jenna a young woman who worked as a prostitute with her sisters, and Cecily (also an orphan), had no siblings but lived in an orphanage.

Rhine has family to return to; Jenna and Cecily have none. Also notable are their age differences: Rhine is in the middle of her teenage years, Jenna is almost at the end of her life, and Cecily is only thirteen.

Each of them are equally as headstrong as another, in my opinion. They all have goals that they'll do anything to achieve, they're all incredibly stubborn in their own way. What sets them apart, however, is exactly what I've already mentioned: everything they do, and hope, and wish for is rooted in where they were before the events that begin the novel, which gives them an extra level of sympathy that I, personally, couldn't help but feel for them. Even Cecily, who absolutely loves her new life and basically plays into the hands of her husband and father-in-law (well, I'd argue father-in-law more than husband, but that can be debated), and who also does everything she can to get Rhine and Jenna to forget their old lives, is worthy of some level of sympathy.

Here's what I thought DeStefano did really well: Cecily is probably one of the most annoying girls ever, but I pitied her for a single reason that Rhine, herself, points out: she simply doesn't know any better.

Which plays into a concept I really liked about the whole thing (and, really, what I like about every piece of fiction): what makes people handle the same reality differently?

I've been in the middle of FEVER (book two) for about two weeks, now, but I'll get there eventually. Ultimately, I did enjoy WITHER, and I definitely recommend it for people who enjoy exploring relationships and watching how secret motives can kind of explode and ricochet off of other people.

Final Answer: 4 / 5

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WITHER @LaurenDeStefano earns 4 / 5 stars from blogger @Rae_Slater. Read the review (Click to Tweet)

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