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Wither
Book
2011
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

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.--Hutley, Krista Copyright 2010 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

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 clockand the dissecting tablewill 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 Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
What if you knew exactly when you'd die? The first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.<br> <br> By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek 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.<br> <br> When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet 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 has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.<br> <br> 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?
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