The atmospheric worldbuilding, moral dilemmas and romantic possibilities of Wither (2011) never heat up in this, the second novel in the dystopian Chemical Garden Trilogy.
Having recently escaped the compound where she was forced to marry, take on sister wives and ultimately become her evil father-in-law Vaughn’s scientific experiment in the name of finding a cure for the virus that kills off men and women at a young age, Rhine, along with former servant and love interest Gabriel, finds herself in trouble again. Plotting another escape from a heartless "First Generation" who runs a brothel out of an abandoned carnival site, continuing to evade Vaughn, picking up a malformed and mute girl and trying to find Rhine’s twin brother should be adventurous. And finally being able to communicate freely should bring out the intimacy between Rhine and Gabriel. Instead, the repetitive story, filled with too many similar dream sequences and nearly nonstop illnesses, falls flat, and readers may wonder at times if Rhine and Gabriel even like each other. Their constant running and hiding overshadow the interesting questions about the ethics of science, relationships, sexuality and power raised in the first book.
Readers who want to know more about the causes and effects of the mysterious virus will have to wait for the third installment, purposefully set up by another rushed ending. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)