Review: Wither by Lauren Destefano

Wither (Chemical Garden) - Lauren DeStefano

***There are massive spoilers ahead. You have been warned.***


So, you know that feeling you get when water starts inexplicably pouring through the ceiling and you're powerless to do anything other than place a yellow Moshi Monsters bucket beneath the deluge and pray to all the gods that the flood will dry up because you've already begged the apartment upstairs three times to call a plumber, and they've lied each time, promising they're on it, and then one of your cats for some reason known only to felines, makes the decision to get into the bucket, panics when he feels the water dripping on his head and flies out, tipping the bucket over and spraying water everywhere, then proceeding to dash around the house shaking and drenching all your belongings including a £four-and-a-half thousand leather couch? You know - that feeling? That's the same feeling I got whilst reading Wither (albeit on a smaller scale) of despair, helplessness and then uncontrollable desperate laughter, because really - what else can you do but laugh until your sides hurt when the whole debacle is this ridiculous?!!


Wither by Lauren Destefano is a red hot mess. I award one star for the beauty and theatre of the cover but my fondness for this book ends there. Let's not forget that beauty is after all, only skin deep. Or in this case, one-thickness-of-cardboard-cover deep.


We begin by meeting Rhine, our pure hearted heroine after she is kidnapped and chosen to be a child bride to the inexplicably stupid, Linden along with two other girls - Cecily and Jenna. The girls are forced to live an imprisoned life at Linden's beautiful estate of lies under the watchful eye of his father, Vaughn who hides some supposedly dark secrets. A whole lotta shit goes down as Rhine battles for her freedom and makes a half hearted attempt to wrestle with her conscience. Or something or nothing.

There is very little in this story which makes sense. I feel like perhaps Lauren Destefano is my cats pen name (yeah - the same strange cat who jumped into a bucket of water earlier. He's the special one of the group) because it sounds suspiciously like he wrote it. That's how much sense the plot makes. What we're battling with here is a bizarre vision of the future where sea levels have risen so dramatically that almost the entire world has been swallowed by the ocean. Except Florida!! How is this even possible?!! I would imagine that Florida would be one of the first destinations to bite the dust if we ever arrived at this sorry scenario. So with a detail as vital as setting thrown into question within the first 50 pages of the book, how are we supposed to buy anything else Lauren Destefano tries to sell us?!! (Silly cat!! Although to be fair, his knowledge of geography is limited)


So here's Rhine, stolen from the home she shares with her faceless brother in Manhattan, drugged and delivered to Florida (LOL) where she is forced to marry Linden. Now, Linden is dumb. I mean really dumb. He's ignorant to the point of absurdity as to how this new world operates. Although, really I'm a little stumped myself. For instance, apparently this ritual of kidnapping young girls is quite normal. And the purpose of this exercise? To be honest - I'm not sure. In Lauren Destefano's world, girls are fated to die aged 20 and boys aged 25 due to some kind of genetic mistake caused by the previous generation's quest for a perfect humanity. Quite how this adds up maybe we'll never know. And quite why this means kidnap and imprisonment becomes the norm is beyond me. I understand the necessity to maintain the population through conception of children at a younger age than is currently expected, but could guys and gals not figure this out under their own steam? Where does all the polygamy feature? God, who knows?!! This shit is just messed up. I mean, we've got little Cecily, 13 years old, captured and impregnated by 21 year old Linden. What?!! Yup. Welcome to Wither. And it's all so casual. Yeah, sure Rhine is a bit pissed off and Jenna is sour as a lemon but no-one is particularly horrified. Except me it seems. I did not enjoy this storyline. It's all pretty distasteful. Particularly Cecily's apparent joy to find herself caught up in this debacle. And one of the weirdest things? All the girls who are rejected at the kidnap stage of the operation are shot. Dead. Here we have a population obsessed with procreation. And yet, perfectly healthy and I'm sure, great girls are brutally murdered. And this seems to all be fine. Where's the government in all this?!! Where's the police?!! Why is no-one doing anything to stop this?!! It's all a little ridiculous.


I simply don't understand the angle Lauren Destefano is taking with this series. Want to write a story about kidnap, polygamy and rape? Go ahead. Just don't throw in the whole dystopian post-apocalyptic tangle for good measure. It has to hang together. And Wither does not. It's like a swordfish and a camel making friends and hanging out down at the fucking roller disco or something. The ridiculousness is violently overwhelming.


And looking at a different thread, what's with Vaughn?!! Rhine stumbles across his diabolical plan to use the bodies of her sister wives, Rose and Jenna after they have succumbed to the genetic flaw which kills them to try to discover a cure. For a start, I believe it's very difficult to "cure" a genetic fault held by 100% of the population. I mean what's he actually doing in that basement/lab of his. Splicing genes? If so, why does he keep rambling on about a cure for a virus. Is it a virus? I though it was a problem brought about by dodgy genes. What is going on?!! And quite why Rhine goes metal when she discovers Vaughn is using already dead bodies to carry out his experiments I don't know. We do this now. People are encouraged to voluntarily leave their bodies to science. It's considered rather noble. It's a good thing. So is Lauren Destefano telling us that this is wrong? Are we being, not so subtly, prodded in the direction of thought that our bodies are "sacred" and using them for research which could save hundreds, thousands, millions of lives is in fact defiling them? Fuck knows. I'm not even sure Lauren Destefano is sure. But, we shouldn't be too hard on him - after all, he's only a cat. His passion is cat nip. I'm actually surprised there wasn't more of a feature on cat nip. And tuna. He'd kill and me and eat me to get his pillow paws on a can of tuna.


The end of Wither was just as absurd as the rest of it. The trees are holograms? Uhm so you never wandered over there to check it out? It took seeing a car driving through the trees for Rhine to realise that they were not real and for her to learn the direction of the gate and the road to freedom? I guess she never thought about perhaps walking around the trees. No. Until they were revealed to her as merely a picture, she viewed them as some impenetrable barrier. I actually didn't think Rhine was too shoddy a heroine. Until this. This completely blew it. Someone with so little initiative and such an all encompassing lack of imagination doesn't deserve any reaction other than laughter. Side splitting laughter. And I'm not even going there with her plan to sail the seven seas, just praying to hit Manhattan at some point in the future. Oh no honey. Uh uh.


Nice try kitty. Don't forget that age old advice though to write about what you know. And you know about licking yourself, smashing mugs and strategically spreading cat hair over that one outfit I had set aside for a very important interview. Let's just stick to these topics in the future. Okay?


Ciao for now my friends!! Happy February!!