Reviews for Wither
Booklist Reviews 2011 February #1
When scientists engineered genetically perfect children, everyone thought it would ensure the future of the human race. Though the first generation is nearly immortal, a virus causes all successive generations to die early: age 20 for women, 25 for men. Now, girls are kidnapped for brothels or polygamous marriages to breed children. Rhine is taken from her hardscrabble life and sold with two other girls to Linden Ashby. Though they live in a palatial Florida home surrounded by gardens and treated like royalty, the girls are sequestered from the outside world, and Rhine longs to escape. Her growing affection for her sister wives, her pity for Linden, and her fear of Housemaster Vaughn, Linden's manipulative father, keep her uncomfortably docile--until she falls for servant Gabriel. This character-driven dystopia, more thoughtful than thrilling, sets up an arresting premise that succeeds because of Rhine's poignant, conflicted narrative and DeStefano's evocative prose. Many will appreciate the intense character drama; however, the world building is underdeveloped, with holes in internal logic.Still, this first title in the Chemical Garden Trilogy will surely be popular. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
In a future where men die by age twenty-five and women by age twenty, Rhine is kidnapped and sold as an unwilling wife/breeder to wealthy Linden. Rhine, plotting her escape, reluctantly grows close to her "sister wives," her attendants, and even to Linden. Rhine's relationships with the other young women feel authentic, but her implausible attachment to her captor adds forced romantic tension. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2011 February #1
In this thought-provoking debut, reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale with a touch of Big Love, a generation of "perfectly engineered" embryos, known as the First Generation, has been watching its children die off from a virus that claims females at age 20 and males at age 25. Since her geneticist parents' death, 16-year-old narrator Rhine and her twin brother spend endless nights warding off homeless orphans from their Manhattan basement until she is kidnapped by Gatherers, who make a living collecting potential brides and selling them off to wealthy families to breed new children. Jenna arrives at a Florida compound, where she is locked away with two other "sister wives," and the three teens are forced to marry (and presumably procreate with) 20-year-old Linden. Through her similar appearance to Linden's first (and now dead) love, intriguing heterochromia (two different colored eyes) and acting abilities, Rhine achieves "First Wife" status as she plots an escape. Her situation becomes more urgent when she discovers an underground laboratory where her diabolical father-in-law performs gruesome experiments in the name of finding a cure. A taut present-tense narration ratchets up the suspense. Despite some holes in the plot, particularly in the rushed ending, Rhine's fight for freedom against the clock—and the dissecting table—will leave readers eager for the sequel. Give this one to fans of The Hunger Games trilogy or Ally Condie's Matched (2010). (Dystopia. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2011 August/September
Set in the future after the polar ice has melted, this book shows a different world. Humans have genetically altered themselves. The First Generation has produced offspring with very short life spans. The younger generations must reproduce at an early age, so girls are forced into plural marriages, like sixteen-year-old Rhine. Her husband is wealthy, and his father is a creepy First Generation scientist working on a cure. The wives are kept in isolation. Rhine gets along reasonably well with her husband, but she refuses to have sex with him. She falls in love with one of the servants, Gabriel. Rhine plans to escape. After a failed attempt, her next plan involves taking Gabriel with her. They succeed and head to Manhattan to find Rhine's twin brother. Readers will anxiously stay tuned for the next installment. Rhine is a strong, intelligent protagonist that readers will like. The other characters are all clearly drawn with credible personalities. Despite the isolated setting, the acti n and suspense keeps the plot moving quickly. This is a fine addition to science fiction or dystopian fiction collections. Lee D. Gordon, Project Facilitator, K-12 Library Services, Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nevada. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ¬ 2011 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 January #2
Opening the Chemical Garden trilogy, DeStefano's harrowing debut initially comes across as The Handmaid's Tale for YA readers. DeStefano, however, forgoes larger social analysis to depict the personal impact of a dystopian future on Rhine and Gabriel, teenagers with a handful of years to live. Science gave 21st-century America one generation of perfect babies; since then, war has destroyed the other continents, and a virus that kills girls by 20 and boys by 25 has ravaged subsequent generations. Healthy teenage girls are prized as breeding stock, and Rhine is kidnapped and forced into a polygamous marriage with the wealthy Linden Ashby, in whose palatial Florida home Gabriel is a servant. Pampered but imprisoned, Rhine only wants to get back to her twin brother, Rowan, in gritty Manhattan. And as Gabriel's furtive relationship with Rhine grows, he begins to share her dream of escape. DeStefano has an observant and occasionally pitiless eye, chronicling the cruelties, mercies, and inconsistencies of her young characters. The larger world is less precisely realized; it will be intriguing to see how DeStefano develops it as this promising trilogy progresses. Ages 14-up. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2011 April
Gr 9 Up--In the near future, genetic engineering has given a single generation freedom from all physical ills and a long life, but something claims the lives of successive generations as women reach 20 and men reach 25. Many of the first generation and their offspring are fabulously wealthy, but the rest of the population struggles for a living. Rhine Ellery is 16 when she is kidnapped from Manhattan and selected as a bride for Linden Ashby, along with 18-year-old Jenna and 13-year-old Cecily. Jenna seems to be resigned to her existence and naive Cecily is delighted by her situation, but Rhine is determined to escape from her "husband" and his mansion in Florida to return north to her twin brother, Rowan. She finds an ally and love interest in Gabriel, a servant who is as much a prisoner as Rhine. Linden's father, Vaughn, is the true power in the house, controlling his son through disinformation and the "brides" through fear and lies. Vaughn conducts research in the mansion's basement, searching for a cure, but Rhine and Jenna suspect something sinister behind his supposed altruism. As time goes by, Rhine begins to soften toward Linden, who proves to be gentle and artistic, but her determination to escape never wavers. She proves herself to be a heroine who faces her situation with spirit and cleverness. The trapped bride and mysterious husband are straight out of Gothic romances. By stirring in elements of sheer creepiness with dystopia and the hot topic of polygamy, DeStafano creates a story that should have broad appeal.--Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI [Page 170]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
VOYA Reviews 2011 April
"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." Or, in the case of this dystopian future science fiction debut, faulty genetic engineering is responsible for the end of civilization as we know it. After the first generation of genetically-perfect humans is born, their children start dropping like flies. All boys die at age twenty-five, and all girls at age twenty. The first generations are frantically trying to find a cure, before it is too late, for them and their descendants. Kidnapping, conducted by "Gatherers" who look for girls to sell to wealthy first generations, has become a way of life. The story begins when Rhine has been captured by Gatherers and is sold, along with two other girls, to a scientist and his son. Rhine becomes a sister wife to Linden, and the blond replacement for his beloved wife, Rose, who is dying as she has passed the age of twenty. The other two sister wives are Jenna, a dark-haired beauty, who'd rather join her murdered sisters, and red-headed orphan, Cecily, the only one excited at the prospect of marrying a wealthy man and living and dying in luxury. Brutal housemaster Vaughn is their true captor; his son, Linden, is as much a captive as his new brides. Although Cecily is the first to sleep with Linden and--at age fourteen--to give him a son, Rhine, who sleeps beside but never with her husband, is the one who becomes his glittering first wife. She is also the one who continually dreams of escape and comes up with a plan, involving a young male attendant who will do anything for her 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.-- B. Kunzel 5Q 4P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.