"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus
Wither follows the story of Rhine, who is living in a world where a disease has wiped out most of the human race, leaving only North America behind. Because of this disease, no one is able to live past the age of 20, if you're a woman, and 25, if you're a man. Rhine is forced into a marriage with two other girls for the sole purpose to produce babies, but she is finding that what she wants more than anything is freedom. Freedom from the disease. Freedom from her husband. Freedom from that mansion.
I know there are certain aspects of this book that have made people cringe. But, for me, the writing and the overall storyline made it well worth the four stars I gave. Let me start with the things that I noticed or others have pointed out to me.
In order of biggest inconsistency to least:
1. All of this snow that Florida can apparently create. As a resident of Florida, this made me cringe. Even if this were to take place in Northern Florida, it would be ridiculous. Perhaps there was some snowfall in Tallahassee back in 2010. I seem to remember news of it. But this was the type of snow that barely even made it to the ground because it was so cold. The snow that they talked about in Wither was somehow inches or more deep. All I could think of was, "What Florida is this?" My only reasoning was that maybe after the destruction of people (via virus), the state lines were re-done... but it was never explained to be so in the book. That bugged me.
2. Rhine never has sex. This did not make any sense. Now, I'm pretty laid back about sex in YA books. Sometimes it's unnecessary - actually, most of the time it's unnecessary. But in this case? Definitely necessary. You want me to believe that Rhine enters into a marriage which has the sole purpose to procreate and yet never has sex? I can see how DeStefano made Linden a weak man who wouldn't pressure her, but does anyone remember his father? This was not a man who cared enough about Linden, about anyone that he would sacrifice new life forms. If anything, he would have just killed Rhine, used her for scientific study, and then told Linden to move on. I don't care how anyone tries to justify this. Rhine would have been murdered or raped. The end.
3. North America is the SOLE survivor? Now, some readers may have already have read Fever and are shaking their heads at this because maybe this is explained in the second book. I took it as a projection of the character. North America is the only one they know to have survived. But if that is the case, why word it so? Why not simply say that instead of making a firm statement that North America is the only place with a population left.
4. Women dying before men. I suppose this was for plot purposes, but FYI, men die earlier than women. It's scientifically proven. It would have made more sense to have women die at age 25 and men at age 20.
I also know there are other things, such as the usage of "disease" and "virus" as one in the same and the fact that Columbus did not circumnavigate the globe. I actually didn't catch these things while reading, and I'm sort of glad I didn't or else I might have thrown the book across the room in rage. (I later saw these in other reviews). Thank God for good-story-ignorance. My rating probably would have been lower had I noticed.
Regardless, I still greatly enjoyed this book. DeStefano's prose was literally breathtaking. I read this in one sitting. She drew me in with her characterization and writing. I loved the character of Jenna and I could feel for the character of Linden. Oftentimes, I think that writing first person can greatly hinder a writer. This is because they are not able to explore any other characters than the one whose eyes the reader is seeing from. However, somehow DeStefano managed to make all of her characters seem so real and so vulnerable, even through Rhine's eyes. Because of this great characterization, I was able to look past more technical errors.
I also, personally, read books for the relationships and characterizations. I am a huge character reader dislike it when other characters are not fully developed. (Or if other characters all follow some kind of stereotype, etc). With DeStefano, the reader is able to understand a variety of personalities and view the story from different angles.
I purposely put the negative aspects first because I want people to understand how I could look past some blatant errors. I would honestly recommend this to anyone. The pacing, the prose - it all made it worth it to me.