I've been wanting to read Lauren DeStefano's WITHER for ages now but it always seemed to be checked out of the library every time I went. Well, I finally got to the top of the waiting list recently and boy was it worth the wait!
Warning- Spoiler Alert!
From the very first page, the world that Lauren DeStefano created drew me in. Unlike many dystopian worlds, the world of WITHER seemed highly believable given the social circumstances. Even though not all of the characters were in the same situation, they each were affected by the virus in their own way. I could really feel the desperation and fear of each character. What really was interesting to me was that since all of the characters were feeling similar emotions, their reasons for feeling that way became one of the most important parts of the story. For example, Rhine, Jenna, and Linden both felt fear living in the mansion, but none of them were afraid of the same thing.
I also felt like Rhine's character was very genuine. As a young woman myself, I constantly found myself thinking, What would I be feeling if I were in Rhine's situation right now? And the answer was always, Exactly how Rhine feels in the story. DeStefano did a fantastic job capturing the real, raw emotions of a trapped teenager in fear for her life. While I've never been in a situation like Rhine's (thank goodness!), I simply could not imagine myself feeling any differently than she did. As a female reader, it was refreshing to see a female lead not immediately give in to the social pressures around her. The fight in Rhine, given her circumstances, made her seem very real, and made her story memorable.
But of course- this story is not just about Rhine. Who can forget about Gabriel?! Even though he was in the text less than Jenna, Cecily, and Linden, as a character I felt as though he was second in importance only to Rhine. His transformation from an obedient servant to a young man with fire inside of him was the most moving part of WITHER. His story showed that it's possible to fight what you've been taught if you want something different. As a counterpart to Rhine, it is interesting to see their stories unfold in parallel. On one hand, you have Rhine, who knows from the get-go exactly what she wants (even if she does waver occasionally), and just needs a way to get it. On the other hand, there's Gabriel, who doesn't like what he has but takes a long time to come to terms with the decisions he needs to make. Rhine and Gabriel are really the two characters who provide uniqueness and voice to WITHER.
And the ending...well...if this was a stand-alone book, I would have hated the ending- very cliché. However, knowing that WITHER is just the first book of a trilogy, the ending was fine. It wasn't very exciting, but it (almost) works as a cliffhanger for book two (FEVER, due out 2/21/2012).
I definitely definitely recommend WITHER to anyone with even the slightest interest in YA dystopian novels. If you haven't been hooked in the past, read WITHER anyway! It doesn't have crazy apocalyptic events like some other dystopians, and the believability of the plot makes WITHER the perfect quick read!