Sep 12, 2016

Wither

by Lauren DeStefano

In the not-so-far future, every continent apart from North America has been annihilated by nuclear warfare.  For a time afterwards America was like a utopia- cancer and other diseases erradicated, only  perfectly healthy babies born due to genetic manipulation. Then the dark reality sets in- those born in the next generation die in their early twenties. All of them.

What this means for the story is that our main character finds herself kidnapped at age sixteen, taken to a mansion and coerced, along with three other girls, to marry a wealthy man who is among the desperate- they want to breed as many children as possible in hopes of finding a cure before humanity dies out. The main character is one of these girls kidnapped to be a bride. She is suddenly jerked from being in poverty and uncertainty to living in luxury and being well-cared for. But she isn't free, she's not happy, and she knows when she's going to die...

It's an interesting idea, but this one didn't work for me. The characters were uninteresting. I never got a sense of them as real people. And I didn't quite buy the premise. If everyone was suddenly dying young, would the reaction of wealthy men really be to kidnap young girls and marry them in order the get lots of progeny? To me it was an odd idea. Another issue I had was that the story is told a lot in flashbacks, so the background events are revealed in pieces. I prefer my narrative to be linear. I think if I'd had chapters describing the chaos, the sudden flux of orphans when people started dying, the struggles the main character faced before suddenly being shoved into this mansion... it would have made more of an impact for me.

But again, I'm not the target audience for this book. It's the kind of thing my near-twelve-year-old might gobble up. Except when I started to tell her about the premise (to see if she wanted to read it before I return it to the library) she said "wait, so all these girls are getting raped by a rich guy?" Well... they got married to him, but against their will, so yeah, rape. The whole idea of it is pretty distasteful once you start seeing past the descriptions of opulence hand-in-hand with oppression. However, as far as I read in the book, I didn't come across any sex scenes at all. The girls discuss consummation, who spent the night when with their husband, one of them gets pregnant, that's it. I can't be sure though- I started to feel distracted around thirty pages in, and just skimmed a bunch after that before ditching this one.

Abandoned         374 pages, 2011

more opinions:
Presenting Lenore
Rhapsody in Books
Dear Author
There's a Book

3 comments:

Thistle said...

I used to love stories like this (what happens after all or most of the world ends), but so many authors use that idea now, and so many of them are simply awful, I generally try to avoid this kind of storyline nowadays.

Agreed with you, it sounds like the characters' actions just didn't make sense.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Fwoo, grim premise. It's interesting that you think this would be a better book for quite a young kid -- that alone puts me off! Not because I don't think brilliant books are written for twelve-year-olds, but because with a premise like this, I'd need the author to be quite serious about dealing with the implications of the world she'd created, and I don't think you can do that with this premise and that age group. Will give a miss!

Jeane said...

No, no! I think it's aimed at older teens, not twelve-year-olds. My daughter just happens to read above her age level, and she's really into series like Hunger Game, Uglies, Level 2. I'm glad she found the idea distasteful and had no interest in reading it.