Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wither by Laura DeStefano

I wasn't going to read Wither, as the cover makes me want to...I don't know punch puppies, drown kittens, vomit uncontrollably? Can you tell I hate these new-fangled covers that have some sort of waif model on the cover posed in some sort of Tyra Banks type manner? And, yet, against my will, I am drawn to its colors and symbolism...

Anyway, I wasn't going to read it and then I saw this review for it on Goodreads (by a reviewer whose opinion I value and whose reviews I follow) just trash the dickens right out of it. It made me curious. Isn't it funny how a bad review can do that? But, I still wasn't going to pay to read it...I waited...hoping one of my students would have it and let me borrow it, hoping one of my friends would buy it and let me borrow it and then there it was on the bookshelf at my aunts house when we went to visit her in the summer begging me to read it. I read it in a day, it's not really that hard of a read.

Frankly, I like the story. The only thing that makes it dystopic, however, is the premise. The rest is mostly a love quadrangle.

Frankly, I like the setting. It happens to be a gothic castle full of mysterious secrets and an orange grove in its meandering garden and, by contrast, a city taken over by disease-riddled, I can only imagine, zombie-like teens and pre-teens and those who prey upon them.

Frankly, I like the main characters. Rhine (isn't that a lovely name that you know 85 million teenage girls will now want to name their first born?) is strong when she needs to be, feminine when she needs to be and knows what she wants which is out of her life of sister-wifedom and back with her brother defending their home. I like her husband, a man/boy struggling not to be the pawn of his father, and the boy she truly loves (at least I think she does), the servant, Gabriel. I, even, like the other two sister-wives, even if one is a little spoiled child who enjoys that she is pregnant at 13 and the other is a bit sad (we find out for good reason) and mopey.

I've recommended it to a couple of students who I know like their dystopia on the light, romantic side and I've mentioned it in passing to a couple of my SF YA friends in the hopes that we could then chat about the many reasons this book and its author bugs me because I can't put my finger on it, except to say maybe there's too much to try to entice the reader to buy into the concept and not enough once your hooked. It's kind of like Taken (that movie with Liam Neeson), meets the Uglies series, meets Frankenstein (the book and the Kenneth Branagh movie), meets I Am Legend, meets the most beautiful sweeping romance ever...say Gone with the Wind.

Will I read the second one? I'm not sure, it's got another one of those covers and a setting that seems to be all the rage now...the carnival/circus. Maybe, I'll just have to keep my eyes on the look-out to see if anyone will let me borrow it.

3 Stars
Side note: my review for this book bounces between 3 and 4...I'm torn...

Teacher Advisories
Sex 3/5 
It really doesn't go into any type of description whatsoever when it comes to sex in this novel. However, Linden marries for love at first, but then his father finds him 3 sister wives (two of which we know were kidnapped from their homes by, what seems to be, some sort of sex slave ring). While Linden doesn't force them to have sex with him, it is heavily implied that Jenna doesn't really want to but sees no way out and that Cecily doesn't really understand what she's gotten herself into. The main characters talk candidly about buying sex for money and about how to get pregnant. It would seem that the goal of a sister wife is to have as many babies as possible.
Language 0/5 
I don't remember any language that would be considered an expletive, there are some real and candid conversations.
Substance Abuses 2/5
It seems that once you are on your death they pretty much just drug you up until you don't feel anything until you die. One of the sister wives may have overdosed on drugs. The parties involve alcohol.
Violence 3/5
The sister wife who overdosed may have been murdered. Rose dies pretty graphically...pale, weak, smelly, coughing up blood. Kidnapped girls that are not sold to prospective husbands are murdered in cold blood. Then there's the whole idea that Linden's father may be using the babies of the wives to experiment on to find the cure...that's just chilling and creepy.

Touchy Subjects
Sex Trafficking 
With all the things that are coming out now about children being kidnapped into sex slavery (Jaycee Duggard) or being forced to be 13 year-old wives (too many to name), this may be the subject that kids pick up on and want to talk about the most.
Science and Ethics
AIDS, Early Science experiments that didn't ask for consent of the patient, the fact that the death virus was created by scientist trying to find a cure for disease and the fact that it only affects the young might come into question.
Because they talk about it a lot...Rhine even understands that the three sister wives have each been brought to the mansion for three separate purposes and while her's is for conversation, Jenna's is for sex and Cecily's is for breeding.
Sister Wives
I'm sure there are some out there who find this sooooo objectionable that they won't want children to read this book. It may also make people feel uncomfortable because of the aforementioned kidnapped children. Sister wives are controlled by their husbands or, in this case, their husbands' father.

How this book is used in the classroom
1] Independent Read option
2] Websites
A biting but honest review of the novel and Fantasy cast
Author website

1 comment:

  1. Wow, a love quadrangle! I've not heard that phrase in a book review yet. :) Very clever.

    BTW, I’m a writer, book lover, and your newest blog follower! My blog is Life of Lois Feel free to stop on by.

    P.S. It’s me who just sent you a book review request. :)


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