What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb - males only live to age 25, and females only live to age 20. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape - to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attached to, Rhine attempts to break free in the limited time she has left.
What a beautiful, haunting debut.
Imagine knowing you only had a few years left to live, and yet you spent them fearing that you would be snatched up and sold into marriage. Imagine the future of your world, when you, and your children, and any future generations each have an expiration date.
I've said it already - DeStefano's debut novel is haunting. At sixteen, Rhine is completely aware of her limited lifespan, but she will fight to spend it as she pleases, not as one of three wives to a wealthy man. When the novel isn't focusing on her drive to escape, much of it explores her relations with her sister wives, and each girl feels quite differently about her imprisonment.
For all Rhine's dreams of love, there is little romance in Wither; she forms a close bond with the servant Gabriel but doesn't fixate on him, and is barely a wife to Linden. More important to her is her bond with her twin brother. For him, and for her freedom, she will escape.
Wither is the first in the Chemical Gardens trilogy. Suffice to say, I will be following the series and any of DeStefano's future works.