Monday, June 13, 2011

Distracting Details/A Mixed Review of Wither

by Lauren Destefano

The Short Story
In the evil!future, a disease wipes out women at age 20 and men at 25. Rhine is 16 and spends her time trying to avoid kidnappers who sell teen girls. But she gets caught with a dozen-ish others and is taken to some creepsters for purchase. The options are either to be sold as a polygamous bride, prostitution, or being shot. She ends up with the first option with two others, no one gets the second, and the rest get shot.

The Distracting Details
Here's my problem with Wither. Women die at 20, men at 25, right? So there are more men than women. I get that women could become commodities in that situation. Low supply, high demand and all. I also get that prostitution would exist, although forced prostitution makes less sense. But why polygamy, which is one man and more than one woman? There are more men than women. So, not enough women to go around. If the goal were just to make more (genetically diverse) people, couldn't they just let people sort of naturally pair up, as people are wont to do? There's really no reason for polygamy in this story.

Wouldn't polyandry (one woman, more than one man) make more sense? I know that doesn't get you more people in the way that polygamy would. But if the goal were more people, why did the extra kidnapped girls get shot? Those kidnappers apparently weren't the best business men. Also, why would the overabundance of guys whose sisters/friends are being kidnapped, or were just girl-less themselves, not band together and do something about this?

So. . .
This was all I could think about for the first 50 pages of Wither. Anyone who's finished the book knows that those details don't really factor much in the rest of the story. It's just a way to get the main girl into a polygamous marriage, and make the bad guys seem especially bad. But I couldn't get over it. Maybe this will all be explained in the rest of the series, or maybe it will be one of those "vampires want blood all the time unless it's a certain type of 'dead blood'" kinda deal. 

Sometimes I think my disbelief is pretty heavy. Have you ever read a book where a small detail/plot point offended your sense of, well, sense?


  1. This is exactly the kind of things in books and films that bothers me too.

    Great review, I've been reading so much hype about this book it's refreshing to read an actual balanced opinion about it.

    I still quite fancy reading this one for myself but I do appreciate the heads up! I'll be less likely to rush out and buy this now.


  2. You're right, it makes absolutely no sense to shoot the rejects. I kind of wondered about this when I read Withered, but I shoved it under the carpet so I could keep on reading.

    Mary, A Book A Day

  3. Jules I still think you should check it out if it sounds interesting to you. Really, the things I mention don't do more than set up the story. I'm sure I was thinking about it far more than the author ever intended!

    Mary I'm happy I'm not the only one who thought that! But I'm also happy that you were able to go on with the book. :)

  4. This is exactly what bothered me about the book. All those little details were just not thought out or developed enough.

  5. Loved your review, was actually surprised that the same thing didn't bother me. Here's why (watch me attempt to be coherent about my random thoughts!):

    I kind of assumed it was the fact that the richest men were the ones who could afford to use women as commodities that explained the waste of women's lives (the shooting of the unwanted).

    Rhine's brother, Rowan, wasn't mentioned as having even one girl, let alone a harem of them like Linden! So I guess there's some strict social strata that comes into it.

    The fact that the rich could care so little about such a limited commodity as women makes the women who haven't been caught yet even more unique - thus making sure they remain even more sought after prizes than the death-at-20 virus would naturally let them be.

    Did any of that make sense?

  6. Jenny I read your review on your blog, and so agree! Then I followed another commenter to her blog and she had even more things that don't quite add up in this story.
    Sometimes I think this is why YA gets a bad name, when not all the stories are completely thought out.

    Beth thank you! I was really hoping someone would try to help me understand. :) And those points definitely make sense. I don't know if they totally explain the whole world for me (yet), but maybe that's just me. (I spent part of the Hunger Games cave scenes wondering what they did when Peeta had to go to the bathroom....)

  7. I actually loved Wither, but I can totally understand your points. When I was reading the book I was totally enthralled with it, and I just love the atmosphere and the characters. I had a couple of questions, but nothing that took me out of the reading of the book. The things you brought up are so valid... it's actually pretty bad, I definitely don't think Wither has the best developed world. I wish it would make more sense. Hopefully in the upcoming book(s) it might be more explained?

  8. Ashley that's what I'm hoping, too. I'll give the second book a chance to see if it gets cleared up a bit.
    And I agree that the characters are a great part of the book. I thought the characterization for Linden was perfect. And the 13 y/o. (but I can't remember her name)

  9. I thought this was a very interesting book, but a little too dark (and the romance wasn't that well developed). I agree that polyandry would make more sense. But then it wouldn't be a dystopia if women were ruling the marriage world :-)

  10. Alison lols. :) And I agree, this one was pretty dark.

  11. I like your review, but it's the label "dystopi-uh" that gave me the lol. Well done!

  12. Thanks! I've read a few dystopian books so I try to distinguish the ones I liked from the ones I wasn't too sure about. :)

  13. I loved Wither, but I totally agree with your points. There were things that didn't add up, and (especially after reading Gina's review) I can see where there are some huge plot holes. I especially agree about the girls who were murdered in the beginning. So unnecessary, and it didn't even make sense! Why kill a van full of girls who could boost the population? Not to mention that if they wanted to make money by selling them, they would have wanted to save the time and effort of stealing more girls by keeping the ones they had until they were sold.

    One thing I wanted to comment on, is that I think there was polygamy because there was a need to have as many babies as possible before the women died at age 20. If one woman has many husbands, she can still only have one baby a year (if you count recovery time), and in five years, she'll only have had about four children. But if one guy has many wives, there can be as many babies each year as the number of wives he has, so in five years there will be that many more children to boost the population.

    I don't know if this is the reason the author chose to have polygamy in the book instead of polyandry (and it's definitely not the reason the guy's father made him have more wives), but it makes sense to me for the rest of the families who were polygamists.

    Anyway, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as you hoped. Hope the next one is better! :)