Monday, April 1, 2013

Withered by Laura DeStafeno

Title: Withered
Author: Laura DeStafeno
Genre: Young Adult Dystopic
Pages: 368
Rating: PG13
Review Rating: 3/4


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.


A friend suggested this novel to me and I was a little hesitant. There have been so many 'Dystopia' novels out lately, many of which aren't worth the paper they were written on, that I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But when I was at work with nothing to do, I listened to it while doing data entry. 

While the main character gets a little whiny, reminding me of a certain female character in a popular vampire series, the plot was very interesting. On the surface, this novel is about a girl that is kidnapped and is forced into a marriage she doesn't want. But underneath, the current of the novel is something very different.

Rhine is kidnapped and taken with a bunch of other girls to a line up where a man chooses from them. He chooses Rhine and two others to become his 'sister' wives. This first thing surprised me because sister wives is a term used for when a group of women take to one man, but are not legally married to him. But I guess that is semantics. She moves into a giant mansion with her 'sisters' and is wed to her husband the next day. But she is essentially trapped, prisoner in this house of opulance, not even allowed to go down a single floor. Through the whole novel she thinks about and discusses the idea of freedom. How important freedom is to her because she knows what it is, and how important it is to share that freedom with others. But we see the exact opposite in one of her 'sisters' because she has never known freedom and believes she has is made because she was chosen by a wealthy husband.

Throughout the novel you get the sense of urgency, both on the part of Rhine, but you as the reader feel it as well because you know she doesn't have long to live and you want her to be happy. 

A word about the writing. I was blown away with the beautiful pros that were given to us. Laura DeStafeno did an amazing job of describing a beautiful prison, one that we could almost feel and see with our own eyes. She is a very poetic writer, sometimes a little too poetic, but overall she is very enjoyable to read and listen to.

While there are many dystopia novels out there right now, this is one that I think should be read.

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