Humans will never stop trying to find a cure for death and disease. In Rhine’s world, scientists thought they’d figured it out – until they realized that the disease simply killed everyone, girls at 20 and boys at 25. Just four years before her inevitable death, orphaned Rhine is kidnapped from her twin brother and married to wealthy Linden with two other stolen sister-brides. Rhine longs for nothing more than to escape – the last thing she wants to do is bear Linden’s baby and spend the rest of her life under the thumb of his scheming, aging father as he attempts to find the cure for the disease that kills all of the perfect generation.
I so badly wanted to like this book. It caused a huge splash when it came out, and I’m not capable of resisting dystopias that sound awesome – plus, when it arrived as part of my Secret Santa gift, signed and everything, I started reading almost immediately. Couldn’t resist. So maybe this is a case of expectations getting too high, or me reading too much amazing science fiction and fantasy over the past few months, but this book didn’t live up to my expectations.
First of all, I’m not one to question too much, especially in books like this; I’m really good at suspending disbelief and going where the author takes me. In this book, I had way too much trouble doing that, particularly because the book hammers the discrepancies into your mind. Rhine’s life before the kidnapping is terrible, and she says that she fares better than most in her home city of New York City. She and her brother get by, with both of them working, hiding from the kidnapping gangs that want to take Rhine away. Other orphans get shut out to die in the cold by these two, because they can’t support any more people.
But when Rhine arrives at Linden’s mansion, she is truly in the lap of luxury. She’s a prisoner, in theory, but a very well-treated one. What I don’t understand is why there aren’t poor orphaned girls banging down Linden’s gate trying to get into this life of luxury. Do they simply not know what awaits them? But why shouldn’t rich people tell them, so they have a choice of wives, instead of kidnapping and killing girls? Wouldn’t it be better to have a willing wife than one you had to kill sisters to get? Maybe someone else can explain this to me – not the obvious wealth disparity, but the fact that rich, single men are not in demand. And that they kill the wives that weren’t selected – surely they’d want all the women in the world alive to continue producing children?
The other aspects of the book were enjoyable – it was well-written and well-plotted as it kept me turning the pages – but the world-building simply didn’t make sense. Some of the blurbs compared it to The Handmaid’s Tale and implied that this is a future we could imagine happening, but to be honest, I couldn’t, so it lost the whole creepy point of dystopia where we can see what our world could become. I couldn’t see our world turning into this one, unfortunately, and the best writing in the world wouldn’t be enough to cover that lack.
So, Wither is an enjoyable quick read, but don’t expect to believe in the world.
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