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Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Lauren DeStefano
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (502 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $9.99
Kindle Price: $8.99
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

What if you knew exactly when you’d die? The first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.

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.

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.

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?

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: Cassandra Clare Reviews Wither

Cassandra Clare is the author of The Mortal Instruments series. The latest addition to the series is City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4).

Lauren DeStefano’s new book, Wither, heralds the coming of a promising new voice in young adult dystopian fiction. Wither introduces us to Rhine Ellery, age sixteen, who lives in a world decimated by the results of genetic engineering. In an attempt to render humanity almost immortal and disease-free, scientists accidentally introduced into human DNA a ticking time bomb — all women live only to age twenty and men to age twenty-five. In this world, riddled with brutality and stricken with poverty, girls are married off as young as thirteen and forced to bear children in a desperate attempt to keep humanity ahead of the wave of disease that threatens to eradicate them.

Lately readers have been seeing an influx of books handling new and old topics in a different, more female-centric way. Part parable, part warning, Wither puts women and girls at the heart of a dystopian tale mixing progress and disempowerment, science and secrecy. After being kidnapped from the home she shares with her twin brother, Rhine is "sold" to a rich man, Linden, along with two other girls, Cecily and Jenna. Their polygamous marriage is seen as necessary, for Linden’s father is a scientist trying to find a cure for the "virus" that strikes down youth, and he needs new subjects for his experiments — subjects in whose DNA, he hopes, a cure can be found.

The day-to-day lives of Rhine and her sister-wives — parties, pregnancy, babies — contrasts starkly with the shadow of death that looms over every action. Even Rhine’s growing romance with a servant, Gabriel, could lead to vicious punishment for them both — as could her repeated attempts to escape her gilded prison. This story, the first of a trilogy, leaves us with a glimmer of hope but no easy answers.

From Booklist

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. Grades 9-12. --Krista Hutley

Product Details

  • File Size: 1908 KB
  • Print Length: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (March 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,117 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Lauren DeStefano's debut novel, Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy), opens with a harrowing scene: young women have been plucked off the streets and forced into the back of a van. Some will be killed, and others will be sold into polygamous marriages. Ever since geneticists made a mistake, all women die at age 20 and all men at age 25. Along with two other women, Rhine is sold to a wealthy man as a replacement for his dying wife. Locked away in his mansion, Rhine must decide whether to accept the life of luxury she's been provided or whether to risk everything to escape back to a world of freedom and her twin brother.

WITHER opens with the best first chapter I've read in a while, and the story's hook will grab readers immediately. The book excels in its chilling depiction of the realities of Rhine's world, and the writing doesn't shy away from descriptions about sex and sexuality, the inner workings of the polygamous marriage, and how different people would adapt to the situation. Through its story, the novel also touches on hot issues like assisted reproduction and genetic engineering. Rhine and her two sister-wives, Cecily and Jenna, are sympathetic as characters in their own unique ways. I found their complicated relationships with one another to be the most compelling in the book. The novel also finishes with an ending that can stand on its own, even with the known sequel forthcoming.

Despite the extremely strong opening, storyline, and created world, the book faltered a bit. The mythology and world building regarding the "virus" and the resulting society was not always clear and had some plot holes.
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61 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The premise around this story is really interesting. Polygamy in a post-apocalyptic world? Very intriguing. I was excited when I sat down with this book.

It starts out well, and the horror and fear rippling through the girls is tangible. I started out liking Rhine a lot, and empathized with all three girls as they were forced into a marriage that they didn't necessarily want or understand. I really love the friendships that blossom between them, too. By the end of the story, they were close enough to be sisters, and something that affects one of them affects all. That was really well done.

I wish the world-building had been clearer. What is this virus? Why is North America the only continent left? Even if we don't get the full answer, something is better than nothing. Also, if the human race is dying, then a woman's womb would be a very precious commodity. Girls with no means would be lining up to have babies in exchange for room and board. There wouldn't be a need for Gatherers. If anything, there would be so much competition to get pregnant that the wealthy would be able to pick and choose and run any kind of genetic test they want in order to narrow down the list. The Gatherers would only be needed for dangerous or fatal medical testing--the kind no one would volunteer for. These are all very interesting concepts that I hope are explored in future books.

As the story progressed, I had a lot of difficulty with Rhine. She goes on and on about being free, and, at first, that makes sense. But then we learn more about how Linden's house works, and that Vaughn is the real villain. It's made clear that Rhine will never be harmed because she's too valuable, even though others aren't so lucky. Her reaction to this is to run away instead of trying to help.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING STORYTELLING February 24, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Every now and then, I try reading a new author and hit pay dirt. This was definitely one of those times. This book keep me turning pages until the end and I don't think it gets any better then that when reading.

The opening quote by T.S. Eliot ("This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper.") is a very fitting start to this story of a dystopian future. A future that is not so far away and could happen. The first paragraph is chilling and the author certainly has a way with words ("They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids"). Seventy years ago, scientists engineered super embryos that became favored over the old fashioned method of having your own. This was done to help society as the population was decimated by cancer but of course there was a price to pay. The first generation of super embryos were fine but all of their offspring have a life expectancy of 20 (females) to 25 (males). Science running amuck is nothing new and has been done plenty of times before (Logan's Run) but this author succeeds in making it fresh. Our heroine's world is much darker than any Hollywood movie.

I liked how the characters and situations in this story were not simply good or bad but various shades of grey. Housemaster Vaughn is a villain but the purpose behind his horrific acts is to find a cure, an ends justifies the means kind of guy. Even though Rhine was forced to become part of a polygamous lifestyle, she uses Linden to make her own life more comfortable. It was interesting to see how inner morals either bend or break when survival is at stake.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read; Just Ignore the Flawed Premise
In the world of Wither, men only live to age 25, while women live to age 20. After they reach those respective ages, each will fall prey to a malicious virus, and because of this,... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Liz W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, I just raced through that. What an interesting world!
Okay, at first, I was kind of creeped out with the child bride stuff. The youngest girl Cecily is only 13 when she becomes Linden's bride and since she is the most eager after... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brittany (The Book Addict's Guide)
4.0 out of 5 stars Wither Book Review
In the beginning of Wither, Lauren DeStefano opens with an interesting first chapter that drew me in and wanted me to read more. Read more
Published 1 month ago by yk
4.0 out of 5 stars Wither Book Review
Imagine a post-nuclear war North America where a genetic mutation caused the remaining population to die at the young age of 20 for females and 25 for males. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jen Gruman
1.0 out of 5 stars Wither turns into a typical teenage love story where Rhine
By Lauren DeStefano
Review by Zoe Chetlin

Poverty, death, kidnapping, enslavement, and entrapment are all subjects covered in the span of three... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Candace R. Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars Book wasn't in as good of shape as I thought it was going to ...
Book wasn't in as good of shape as I thought it was going to be... Its very rough but still readable so happy with it.
Published 2 months ago by Beth Adams
1.0 out of 5 stars Meh....
Hard to stay interested.... What should have been an interesting book dragged on and on and on and on... I couldn't finish it.
Published 2 months ago by MtP
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 2 months ago by Tori
3.0 out of 5 stars A really lame heroine who wasn't very heroic or believable...
The idea behind the book was great, I was really intrigued by the whole world the story was set in, but unfortunately we learn less about the world and focus all our time on the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Linda A. Naquin
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling journey
A fiction story about a futuristic society where personal liberty and self determination are taken. If children only lived to 20, is it right to hold them for breeding and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Lauren Destefano earned her BA in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut in 2007. This is her first novel.

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Topic From this Discussion
When is the second book coming out?
February 2012 :)
May 15, 2011 by M. Rubright |  See all 3 posts
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