Best of 2011 Young AdultWither by Lauren DeStefano

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Fantasy Element:
Dystopian, Post-Apocolytic
Chemical Garden #1
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ARC copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. Review first published on the Blogger PJV site, republished because post was lost in transition.


This is how I like my dystopian. WITHER was an intense discovery of a new world, it wasn’t a very nice world, but it was real. DeStefano painted such a rich picture that I could actually believe it was possible. I fell in love with the characters, mourned with Rhine, felt her happiness and experience her horror. I couldn’t get enough of this novel and I can’t wait to read the second in this series.


Rhine Ellery lives in a world where she can only live to her twentieth year. Because of genetic manipulation and a nasty virus, women live to be twenty, men to twenty-five. Parents die when their children are barely out of their toddler years and are forced to wander the streets, work in factories and starve if they cannot find someone to care for them.

Rhine is one of the lucky ones. She is a twin and her and her brother, while orphans, were prepared for being alone. They made a home, they worked together to survive and they were making it work. That is until she walked right into a trap and was picked up by a Gatherer. Now she will become a bride. One of many to enter into a world of wealth and privilege, where she will marry a man that will barely let her leave the house. Linden, her weak, but sweet husband, tempts her with a pampered but sheltered life. A life where there is little to worry about as long as you are content in your gilded cage. Yet, there is only one thing on Rhine’s mind: escape to the twin she left behind.

She finds solace with a servant, named Gabriel and friendship with her sister wives. But, each time she feels the call of acquiescence and the draw of blissful ignorance, something happens that shocks her back into her reality, making her realize that something is not right. She must escape. She must be free, no matter what the cost.

I couldn’t get enough of Rhine. She is a beautifully constructed character. Just enough naiveté, but determination to make the story work. The dystopian landscape was so well implemented that the hopelessness of the world’s plight saturated every page of this novel. I couldn’t begin to imagine living in a world like this — but because of DeStefano’s writing I had a front row seat. Yet, between everything there was hope, which kept the story moving, instead of succumbing and leaving you with too heavy of a feeling to read on. Rhine’s character was determined to find a light within the darkness of her world and it all translated to a great read that I will have to revisit over and over again. You need to read this book if you are a fan of dystopian.


While this book is a Young Adult novel there are mature themes. This is recommended for a mature teen audience that can understand what is going on. The heavier stuff is sexual in nature because of the fact that these children have to grow up so quickly. Use your judgement parents, I would give this to a 13/14 year-old, but you might want to read it before you do – which is great, because it is an enjoyable read from an adult perspective also.