Review: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1)

Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)



This was a book that sat on my shelf for a while… no clear reason why I didn’t pick it up right away. It could have been the usual excuse from me, ‘Oh I have so many to read so it’s hard to pick!” Regardless, I am now kicking myself for not reading this sooner. I’m a dystopia freak and this was right up my alley.

Short recap: Rhine lives in a time where everyone lives for a very short amount of time: females live to the age of 20 and males live to 25. That means they have a very, very short amount of time to have a life. This genetic mutation takes place after science failed to create a superior race. Rhine, unfortunately, was kidnapped at a young age and sold as a bride to a family that wants to use her for the soul purpose of breeding. She is one of many “brides” given to a young man of power in the hopes that he can have as many children as possible to carry on his line. Rhine wants nothing more than to escape and be free to live her few remaining years as she wants.

Doesn’t that sound thrilling?! I was hooked from the start! I have read this author’s MG books and the first book in her new series, but neither stood out to me. But this story… this one stood out. This was so engaging that I could not get enough. This wasn’t a story that was full of suspense but it certainly was a story that had my full attention. I love dystopians that make me think that type of future could happen. What is to say that science today won’t do something to severely limit our expected lifespan in the future? Anything is possible, right?

Rhine was such a great character. The girl was strong, fierce, and smart. Who doesn’t love that in a protagonist? I admired her willingness to stay true to herself no matter what. Even after she was sold as a bride and given to her “husband”, she still stood her ground and would not let anyone push her into something she didn’t want to do. That sounds like double talk since she was kidnapped but she was constantly planning her escape. She was always looking for a way to flee her prison and return to her family. Rhine was also so compassionate and caring when she didn’t need to be. Very few of the other ‘brides’ were that way to her but she still chose to let her true self shine. I cannot say enough how much I adored her.

Linden was the “husband” who had taken on so many wives. While I don’t agree with that notion, a part of me cannot blame him for wanting to carry on his family name and heritage by trying to have kids before his 25th birthday. He did try to get to know all of his ‘wives’ but how can he when he has to answer to his father (the horrible man that he was) and attend to the whims and needs of so many women? I don’t mean that in a rude way… let me explain. One girl was super needy and could not wait to “serve” him, another girl was used to being “used for her body”, and Rhine was untouched and taken from her family so she was not having any of it. What was Linden to do? His father absolutely pushed him to “mate” as much as possible in hopes of siring a child. Don’t forget, the girls only live to the age of 20 so some had only a year or two to have a baby. I really did want to hate Linden but I found that I just could not. I could be repulsed at the fact that one of his brides was the very young age of 13, but that was his father’s choosing, not his. I wanted to be outraged at the idea of forced relations but had to remember that it was acceptable in this dystopian future. All of this things made me want to be upset with Linden but I found that I really could not be. Which leads me to the real villain of the story – Linden’s father. That man was evil in true form. I cannot wait to read what his story is really about although I have a really good idea. I don’t trust that scum as far as I can throw him.

The rest of the characters were just as powerful, especially Gabriel. He was the servant boy who attended to Rhine and really wanted to help her. Him along with the rest of the sister-wives (I guess that is what I should call them?) really made this story seem developed and fully-formed. Without them, this story would not have been the same. They were all so flushed out, developed, and believable.

The thing about this story that really stuck out to me was the tough topics the author covered: child brides, human trafficking, breeding merely for scientific reasons, and exploitation of women. These subjects take place every day in the world regardless so it was great to see it brought to light in this series. The horrors and uncertainty these girls went through daily was heart shattering. Lauren did a marvelous job of covering this topics without being preachy. They were talked about and not skirted around. I applaud her for that.

I won’t give away more of the story than I already have because the characters are the real backbone. The story itself is enough to tear your heart out and leave you begging for the second book. I cannot wait to read the second book because the ending of this left me screaming! Now if only my library would buy the audio so I could continue the series… I have to know what happens!



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