Wither – YA Dystopian Book Review

First, let me say that I truly love dystopian novels. I love seeing how screwed up the dystopian societies are and then getting to the hope at the end. It forces us to look at our own world, sometimes with appreciation that we’re not as bad as their society, but often with somber reflection, knowing we aren’t that far removed from some of the corruption and evils illustrated in these novels.

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Now let me say that I have mixed feelings about the Chemical Garden Trilogy so far. I’ve finished Wither and am about 1/4 of the way through Fever. With dystopian novels, you have to try to keep in mind that these characters grew up in this messed up world and many don’t know any better or think it’s normal. Oftentimes, we can sort of excuse some of their faults because of this. Effie in The Hunger Games is the perfect example. She clearly represents the corrupt and frivolous Capitol, but we soon realize, as Katniss does, that she’s simply a product of her society and how she was raised. It’s not her fault, and she does have some redeeming qualities. So we pity her and even eventually like her instead of hate her.

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A society being screwed up in a dystopian novel is just a given. And sometimes the reality of that society is a hard pill to swallow, like in the Unwind series. However, I found this dystopian world to be especially disconcerting. And maybe that’s why I had a hard time knowing how to feel about the “Effie” of the book, Governor Linden, who has 3 wives including the main character, 16-year-old Rhine, and a 13-year-old girl. Although the book isn’t exactly graphic about what goes on with the characters, we know exactly what happens, and I must say…it doesn’t always set well in my stomach.

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I will say the author does a fairly good job of being realistic yet careful with how Rhine feels about her husband, Linden. Her emotions and thoughts make sense, but it also leaves us kind of confused and torn when we really just want to hate the guy.

The premise is that a disease has taken over the population so that males die at 25 and women die at 20. Because of this, to keep the population going, and to produce babies to be experimented on to find a cure, girls as young as 12 or 13 are snatched off the streets and sold to be sister wives or worse, prostitutes. Some are even killed if they can’t be sold. Girls are seen as disposable things to be used and thrown away if they have no purpose anymore. Many young orphan girls who eventually grow into young women are forced into prostitution to make a living.

Violence against women, sex trafficking, and the sexualization of women are topics that I am very passionate about, and that’s probably why it’s been so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this is normal for this society. Many characters don’t think it’s right, but most have given up hope that it will ever be any different.

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On a positive note, the premise and the plot are both very intriguing and kept me hooked the whole time. The author also has some very beautiful and poignant ways to describe things to set the tone, help us understand the characters, or illustrate a theme. I didn’t find these gems as much in the first half, but there are several after that.

On a negative note, I felt like there was some lack of detail in the world building. Some of the issues I just didn’t really buy into. Like why do the guys have to kidnap their wives? Can’t they just get married like usual but just young? How did women/girls become so degraded and thought of as nothing so quickly? I understand that as an author you don’t want to spend too much time giving information, but some of “the way things came to be” stuff wasn’t fully explained or believable.

Now, all that being said, I would still give this book a 4/5. Dystopian books are hard to write, and I recognize that a lot of this is probably just my personal bias and perspective because of my beliefs and feelings. It is still a very good read, and I will definitely be finishing out the series. I might be cringing through the whole thing…but I will finish it. 🙂

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~ by Dusty Crabtree - Author of Shadow Eyes on April 26, 2017.

2 Responses to “Wither – YA Dystopian Book Review”

  1. […] I’m enjoying this series because I love a good dystopian story, and I’m anxiously waiting for the resolution in the 3rd and final book of this trilogy. Check out my review of Wither here. […]

  2. […] about this 3rd and final book in The Chemical Gardens Trilogy. See my post of the first book here. Therefore…sorry, but not sorry, for such a long, animated […]

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