Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Wither" (Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

358 pages

Rhine is sixteen years old. Thanks to the "modern science" of her parents' generation, she has only about four years left to live. Genetic engineering went completely wrong, leaving an entire generation embedded with a virus that kicks in at about age twenty for girls and twenty-five for boys. Scientists are rushing to find a cure, but there's no hope in the foreseeable future. This phenomenon has driven the world into despair, with poverty through the roof, orphans wandering the streets, and women sold as polygamist brides in order to have more children. When Rhine becomes such a bride, she vows to escape. She's going to play nice until her rich hubby and his overbearing father trust her, but as time goes by she finds herself growing closer to her "sister wives" and even warming to her young, naive husband, who is falling in love with her. She realizes that he doesn't know that she was kidnapped and forced to wed him--that was his father's doing. And it turns out that his father has many more sinister operations hidden in the mansion.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected to. The cover didn't interest me at all, but I'd heard from several friends that it's really good so I gave it a shot. The dystopian setup is pretty bizarre and unique. The dying-at-twenty thing is almost too random and specific, but maybe it's just weird enough to be realistic. If there is ever a huge sci-fi style shift in society, it's likely to be caused by something really crazy that the traditional speculators never saw coming. Anyway, the characters are really interesting, and I like that they're multidimensional and hard to figure out (okay, not all of them, but several). The ultimate conclusion is fairly predictable, but I'm okay with that. The setup for the next book in the series is just right, and I'm looking forward to it.

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