Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Chemical Garden Trilogy: Book One: Wither

by Lauren DeStefeno, 358 pages

In a future where a miracle cure leads to drastically shortened life expectancies for subsequent generations (25 for men, 20 for women), those with power and money try to buy themselves and their loved ones time by snatching girls off the street for forced marriages in hopes of breeding out the glitch...or providing their genetic research with enough human guinea pigs to find the cure. When 16-year-old Rhine is kidnapped and sold off as a bride to a wealthy household along with two other girls, she and her sister-wives each face the situation their own way, choosing to embrace it, bear it, or fight it.

Hrmm. I enjoyed this teen dystopia title for its character studies--the girls each have a distinct personality and their daily lives in close quarters are well realized--but I had a harder time with the set-up for the world outside. Too much feels like it was chosen purely for convenience without regard for believability. Exactly 25 and 20? Where's the government and how could it and law have broken down so utterly, so quickly, when the people running things would still be of the First Generation? And if it's such an unstable shambles out there, why does so much of society seem to go on just fine, or at least oblivious to the trafficking issue? Or does it only impact the poor and orphans? Do the men in grey psychically know the median household income and family situation of every girl they snatch? And not all the characters get the attention and development that the girls do. We only know Housemaster Vaughan is scary evil because everyone reacts to him that way, but we rarely see any evidence to back it up (I don't doubt he is, it would just be nice to feel the same thing the characters do when he walks in the room). And how does Gabriel, who can't figure out where the front gate of the estate is, know how to steal and sail, not to mention navigate, a yacht solely from reading books? I will most likely read the next one to see if the author fills in any of the holes and watch how the remaining characters grow; I just wish I didn't have to suspend disbelief so much in the process.


  1. My thoughts exactly, Jenny! I enjoyed the book overall, but I thought it was too much of a stretch.

  2. Wither is set in the future, in a world that somehow seems both futuristic and primitive at the same time. War has literally changed the world as we, the reader, know it. Modern science and technology have changed humanity, illusions and holograms having replaced reality and the humanity of relationships. The desperation that society feels is evident in the way it has changed and the lines between what is right and what is wrong have been thoroughly blurred. Although an set in an alternate reality, there was a very clear parallel between that world and our own. The alternate reality was fully believable as a real possibility for our future which made the entire story that much more intriguing.