Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

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.


Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Best of 2011 Young Adult

Darkness Becomes HerGenre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Fantasy Element: Mythology, Magic, Vampires
Series: Gods & Monsters #1
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Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.Review previously published on

Wow. I haven’t read a young adult novel, with paranormal themes, this original and compelling in a long time. Step away from the usual vampire love stories and grab Darkness Becomes Her, you won’t be disappointed.

Deep in the ruined South of Keaton’s imagined world, a young girl goes on a quest to find out about her parents. Abandoned at a young age, Ari has been a product of social services for a very long time. Just recently she has finally come to live with a family that has shown her kindness and love. It has not dispelled her curiosity though, she needs to find out why her mother abandoned her at four years old and her journey will take her to an area of the world, that like her has been abandoned.

Thirteen years prior, two massive hurricanes ripped through the Gulf and ruined the Gulf Coast. The US government abandoned the area, moved the people out and left the land to be reclaimed by nature. Nine of the oldest families of New Orleans would not relent and petitioned the US government to purchase the area. New Orleans became New 2, apart from the US – and New Orleans always having been different, now became another world.

Ari crossed The Rim into the unknown of New 2, where she was born, and begins to find that not everything is as it seems. The city hides secrets, and the rumors of paranormal creatures and magic that have been whispered about, might not be as far fetched as she thought. A ride from a stranger and an offer to stay the night in a large, run-down house in the Garden District, introduce her to the forgotten children of New 2 and probably the first friends that Ari has had the chance to make in a long time. But, friends can be used against you, especially if you are one of the most pursued persons in the area – because it would seem that Ari’s arrival in the city hasn’t gone unnoticed, both my the ruling body of the city, the Novem, and by much more scarier beings than she ever thought existed.

My frist praise for Ms. Keaton will be about her creation of New 2. Keaton embraced New Orleans, turned it on it’s side and created something really special in New 2. She really seemed to get the personality of New Orleans and did a wonderful job of conveying it in Darkness Becomes Her. I know you can hear over and over again how different this region is, probably get tired of hearing it, I mean really, it is still the US right, how different can it be? But, it is. Just everything about this city is unique and a bit off. Something, you get used to when you live here, but stun the people that visit. Keaton did a great job of showing the subtle odditiy of the city and then taking it further by creating New 2. I could see it happening – if there was any city in the world that it could happen it would be New Orleans. A quote that resonnated with me and showed that Keaton really got New Orleans:

“…I was born here, and I knew my mother had lived here, but somehow it was more than that. It was in the emotion of the place, the air of abandonment, the slight decay on everything, the wildness of the plants and trees, the haunted appearance that clung to the grand old houses, and the dark parts where light never reached–deep in the lost gardens, behind vacant lots, and beyond boarded-up windows. {skipped a part because of length}…It was the freedom of being in a place that didn’t give a shit what you were, because it was different too.”

On top of Keaton’s rich imagining of the city she created, her characters are deeply developed and touch you emotionally. You want to take Violet in your arms and protect her, just as Ari does and Sebastien makes your palms sweat. Then along with the characters and the setting the original idea behind what Ari deals with and the plot behind the setting is so original I was literally nodding during reading it, highly impressed with Keaton’s creativity. I can’t stop singing the praises of this novel. I couldn’t put it down. I started reading it the day before Mardi Gras (Lundi Gras) and it took all of my will-power to not bring it on the parade route to read, Mardi Gras day. Standing ovation, Ms. Keaton. I can’t wait to read book number two.

While this book is a Young Adult novel there are mature themes. There is violence and mature language. This is recommended for a mature teen audience.  Use your judgement parents, it is only a few curse words though. I would give this to a 13/14 year-old, but you might want to read it before you do – but, you’ll enjoy it, so I don’t think it’ll be too hard.


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