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WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

WITHER

From the Chemical Garden Trilogy series, volume 1

By Lauren DeStefano

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 22nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0905-7
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

In this thought-provoking debut, reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale with a touch of Big Love, a generation of “perfectly engineered” embryos, known as the First Generation, has been watching its children die off from a virus that claims females at age 20 and males at age 25. Since her geneticist parents’ death, 16-year-old narrator Rhine and her twin brother spend endless nights warding off homeless orphans from their Manhattan basement until she is kidnapped by Gatherers, who make a living collecting potential brides and selling them off to wealthy families to breed new children. Rhine arrives at a Florida compound, where she is locked away with two other “sister wives,” and the three teens are forced to marry (and presumably procreate with) 21-year-old Linden. Through her similar appearance to Linden’s first (and now dead) love, intriguing heterochromia (two different colored eyes) and acting abilities, Rhine achieves “First Wife” status as she plots an escape. Her situation becomes more urgent when she discovers an underground laboratory where her diabolical father-in-law performs gruesome experiments in the name of finding a cure. A taut present-tense narration ratchets up the suspense. Despite some holes in the plot, particularly in the rushed ending, Rhine’s fight for freedom against the clock—and the dissecting table—will leave readers eager for the sequel. Give this one to fans of The Hunger Games trilogy or Ally Condie’s Matched (2010). (Dystopia. YA)