Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Genre: Distopian-ish, Scifi, Mystery, YA
Release Date: 2011

Cancer's been cured!  This is fantastic.  Miraculous.  The problem is, all the genetic manipulation done to create this cure caused a different problem - the children of those who've been given the vaccine or treatment or what have you (it's never made clear how this cure is dispensed) are born with a ticking clock that runs shorter and louder than those of previous generations.  The generation who had the cure tend to live longer and are called first generations - many of them are still around, which means this can't have happened all that long ago - 50 years or so, given that they now know that all women die at twenty and all men die at twenty-five of some awful disease that seems an awful lot like consumption/tuberculosis.

And oh yeah, at some point there was a war or maybe a natural disaster that wiped out almost everything (and everyone) but North America.  This, though, I wonder about given all the mentions of various people's interest in far off places, and the fact that the main character is named after a river in Germany (Rhine), which seems to have some meaning pertinent to the plot if the way it's treated means anything.

Because of the shortened life expectancy and the desire to fix it - and also keep the human race going - many men take multiple wives and do their best to impregnate them as much as possible.  These babies are then tested and experimented upon, which opens up a whole ethical can of worms that goes largely untreated, other than in the way that the main character thinks the main adversary of this book is monstrous for doing just these things - which are the same things her parents did, and were killed for (in an explosion that took out the entire facility in which they worked), but performed more coldly and with less concern for the living, breathing human beings involved.

Clearly, this book has problems.  However, it's the first in a trilogy so I'm willing to give it a bit more leeway than I would many others.  It's also written quite well, despite the use of present tense which always throws me for at least a few pages; it's very immersive, and one of those things that makes you feel like maybe you could be in that world.  There are some things that are fairly difficult to believe given the problems mentioned behind the cut, the youth of various characters, the relative nearness to the singularity, etc, but I'm willing to set those aside (more so than I am what appear to be flaws in research that I hope are fixed in the subsequent books).  Many people have likened this to The Handmaid's Tale for young adults, and I can certainly see it, to an extent.  The comparison's flawed, but then most are.

It's harder to write a non-spoiler-y review of this than it has been with previous reads!  I'm not sure why.  But, I gave it a five star rating for readability and the likeability of the main secondary character more than anything else, and also the part where I'm really kind of dying to know more about the universe DeStefano's built.  I really hope it pulls together for the sequel(s).



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