Wither (DeStefano novel)

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This article is about the 2011 dystopian novel. For the 1999 horror novel by J.G. Passarella, see Wither (Passarella novel).
Wither by Lauren DeStefano cover.jpg
Author Lauren DeStefano
Cover artist Lizzy Bromley
Country United States
Language English
Series The Chemical Garden Trilogy
Genre Dystopian science fiction
Publisher Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication date
March 22, 2011
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 368
ISBN 978-1-4424-0905-7
Followed by Fever

Wither is a 2011 young-adult dystopian novel written by Lauren DeStefano. It was originally published on March 22, 2011, by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. It is set in a future where scientists succeeded in engineering a perfect generation of humans, free of illness and disorders, but as a consequence, also created a virus that plagues that generation's children and their children's children, killing females at age 20 and males at age 25. The fallout from this disaster drastically set apart the poor, who scavenge for food in a society that has few to no workers, from the rich, who celebrate each new building built as the continuance of the human race. It is the first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy. The second book, Fever, was released in February 2012,.[1] The third and final book, Sever, was released in February 2013.


Wither describes a future where genetic engineering has cured humanity of all diseases and defects. People worldwide have foregone conceiving children naturally in favor of this new science. This generation of perfect humans, later dubbed "The First Generation", lived very long and prosperous lives. Unfortunately their children ended up plagued with a virus that killed all females by the age of 20 and all males by the age of 25. Their children's children suffered the same fate. Humanity now scrambles for a cure as society has broken down into large gaps between the rich and the poor. Gatherers hunt for young girls on the streets to sell them into labs for research, and the unwanted ones go into prostitution or are simply killed.

In Manhattan, 16-year-old Rhine Ellery is captured by the Gatherers and sold to Linden Ashby at his estate in Florida. Rhine finds herself forced to marry Linden along with two other girls, Jenna and Cecily. They join Rose as Linden's new brides, but the ailing Rose is already 20 years of age and does not have long left to live.

Life in the Ashby manor is very comfortable. Cecily embraces it while Rhine constantly thinks of ways to escape. She befriends her servant Gabriel and behaves like a good wife in front of Linden and his father, Housemaster Vaughn, in order to earn the title of "First Wife", which would grant her additional privileges to roam the mansion. Rhine sets that as a goal in order to plan her escape.

By the novel's end, Rhine successfully escapes the mansion with Gabriel and begins a journey back to New York to find her twin brother, Rowan.

Main characters[edit]

  • Rhine Ellery: A sixteen-year-old girl from Manhattan who was kidnapped to be Linden's wife. She is the narrator and protagonist of the novel. Rhine has heterochromia, one blue eye and one brown eye.
  • Linden Ashby: A young architect who marries Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily at the start of the novel. He is also married to Rose.
  • Jenna: The oldest of Linden's new wives at 18. She dislikes living in the mansion as much as Rhine but is less adamant about trying to escape.
  • Cecily: The youngest of the sister wives at 13. She is the most excited and interested about the marriage and enjoys her new life. She later bears a baby boy named Bowen.
  • Rose: Linden's first wife, age 20, who is bedridden because of her age and failing health. She is stressed by the medicines given to her and wishes for death. Rose was once pregnant with Linden's child, a girl, but was told that the baby was stillborn.
  • Vaughn Ashby: Linden's father and Housemaster of the mansion where the novel takes place. He seeks a cure to the virus, using whomever and whatever means necessary.
  • Gabriel: One of many servants in the mansion. He was bought from an auction at an orphanage. He is assigned to care for Rhine and develops a relationship with her.
  • Rowan Ellery: Rhine's twin brother, who is seen only in flashbacks of their life together before Rhine was kidnapped. Rhine believes he is still in New York, looking for her.
  • Deirdre: Rhine's "domestic" in the Ashby Mansion, who prepares Rhine's hair, makeup, and wardrobe; as well as serving as a personal assistant to Rhine. Deirdre is a young orphan, and her father was a skilled painter who taught her about art. She's also a very talented seamstress.

Publication history[edit]

Wither was first published as a hardcover in the United States on March 22, 2011, by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. It has sold to several countries around the world. It was published in the Italian language under the title Il Giardino Degli Eterni: Dolce Veleno on April 7, 2011.[2] In the Netherlands it was published under the title Verwelken by Unieboek Het Spectrum.[3] It was published as Wither (translated as Layu) in Indonesia by Penerbit Kantera in June 2011.[4] It was published in the French language under the title Le Dernier Jardin Tome 1: Ephémère on August 19, 2011.[5] It is available as an e-book from Simon & Schuster and other e-book carriers. It is also available as an audiobook, produced by Recorded Books, LLC.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Publishers Weekly gave Wither a starred review, calling DeStefano's debut novel "harrowing".[7] B. Kunzel from VOYA calls Wither a "thought-provoking novel" that "will also stimulate discussion in science and ethics classes".[8] Kirkus Reviews recommends Wither "to fans of The Hunger Games trilogy or Ally Condie's Matched." Booklist claims that "many [readers] will appreciate the intense character drama".[9] Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, says about Wither: "Lauren DeStefano crafts an all too believable future. I loved the world, the romance, the writing -- exactly the kind of book I've been craving to read."


  1. ^ The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Fever
  2. ^ Newton Compton Editori, Il Giardino Degli Eterni. Dolce veleno
  3. ^ Unieboek Het Spectrum, Verwelken
  4. ^ Penerbit Kantera, Wither (Layu)
  5. ^ Castlemore, Le Dernier Jardin Tome 1: Ephémère
  6. ^ WorldCat, Wither
  7. ^ Publishers Weekly, Wither
  8. ^ Barnes and Noble Editorial Reviews
  9. ^ Amazon.com Editorial Reviews Wither

External links[edit]