Forgive My Fins, I was ready for a haunting tale. This book lived up to all of my expectations and I was glad I bought it and made the time to read it as well (with such a huge TBR list, sometimes books don't get read for months after I buy them). The protagonist Rhine is one of my favorite characters ever. I love her name, her heterochromic eyes, her courage, her strength, her determination, her cunning and her wild hair. In this strange future humans have contracted a virus that doesn't seem to do anything to them, but all of their offspring end up having very short lifespans. Men live to the age of 25 and women live to the age of 20 (this is the first gap in the plausibility that I encountered though... why would it be such a certain age and why would it be different for men than for women?), as a result, many young girls are kidnapped and forced into marriages where they will hopefully end up procreating to help ensure the future of the human race. The people who initially contracted the virus are still alive (they're called First Generation) and everyone is divided between people who are looking for a cure (pro-science) or are accepting the fate of humans and believe it's not right to experiment on people or force them to have children together (pro-nature). Rhine is a pro-science girl who has conflicting feelings since she certainly doesn't want to be part of the experiment herself. Unfortunately she doesn't have a choice after she is tricked and forced into a van with other girls headed to a secluded mansion in Florida, miles and miles away from the tiny home she shares in Manhattan with her twin brother Rowan. She has been kidnapped to become one of Linden Ashby's new wives. Almost as soon as she arrives she begins to devise a plan for escape and I spent most of the book simultaneously rooting for her and worrying about the potential danger. In the opening we discover that whoever is in charge isn't above ending a human life and will stop at nothing to continue his efforts (which are supposedly to find a cure for the virus), so I wanted her to escape, but I was afraid when she made any efforts too. It provided a wonderful tension that carried me through the entire book. Unfortunately there were a few more holes in the plot that were a bit frustrating, like what happened to the law? Is it really possible that America could change so much in one lifespan that kidnapping is suddenly easy to achieve and all these forced marriages are suddenly commonplace? Just because our lifespans are shorter isn't reason enough to worry about the future all humans. Plenty of people have children young, especially in other cultures and many kinds of animals have a shorter lifespan and they have no problem procreating. I could see this causing plenty of changes and long-term problems, but I don't see that being a true threat to our whole species. I guess if the ages were 10 and 15 it might seem a bit more plausible, but it wasn't ever explained how this virus is really threatening the entire population. However, if you can ignore these gaps and just maintain a willing suspension of disbelief, Wither is really quite good. I do wish those strange things were explained a little better so I could've focused more on the characters instead of getting distracted wondering how such-and-such made any sense (haha), but I still loved reading this book. The atmosphere is haunting and the characters leave you with a longing to change their situation, to help them and to know them. Wither also brought a lot of emotions to the surface for me and it is always a good thing when a writer can make you feel. I felt butterflies of anxiety and excitement in my stomach, I felt tears welling up in my eyes threatening to spill over and blur my vision and I felt the warmth of love spread through my chest as Rhine explored her most vulnerable feelings. This book was beautiful in a sad and chilling way and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a slightly darker atmosphere, fans of YA, dystopians or love stories.
Favorite things: the interesting world that Lauren DeStefano created, the juxtaposition of wealth and privilege against the backdrop of death and disease, the detailed characters that were often torn between conflicting emotions and were so real as a result, the breathtaking cover that felt so true to the story, the macabre tone that was a welcome change from my lighter recent reads and the way it was written to lead in to the next book without leaving us on a cliffhanger (I hate when authors do that knowing that many readers will end up waiting a year or more to find out what happens; you can entice us to read more without cutting us off at an exciting part).
Criticisms: I already mentioned this but, the holes in the plot were the largest impediment for this book. I hope maybe the next one will have some more info that helps clear up some of the confusion. Fortunately they weren't that distracting to ruin my opinion of Wither and I still loved it so...
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars! I hope Lauren DeStefano doesn't get writer's block, because I can't wait for the next one!