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Wither

Wither

For Ages: 14 and up
  • reading group guide
What if you knew exactly when you’d die? The first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
Choose a format:
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781442409064 | 
  • December 2011 | 
  • Grades 9 and up
List Price $11.99

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The Wither Trailer

See what everyone has been buzzing about, from debut novelist Lauren DeStefano, no girl has escaped…The Chemical Garden. Wither, Book 1 in The Chemical Garden Trilogy.

Read an Excerpt

I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that

we lose sense of our eyelids. We sleep huddled together

like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying.

I know when one of the girls reaches a wall. She begins

to pound and scream—there’s metal in the sound—but

none of us help her. We’ve gone too long without speaking,

and all we do is bury ourselves more into the dark.

The doors open.

The light is frightening. It’s the light of the world

through the birth canal, and at once the blinding tunnel

that comes with death. I recoil into the... see more

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Wither by Lauren DeStefano

ABOUT THE BOOK

Rhine Ellery is sixteen years old and has four years to live. She was born into a genetically engineered world in which an attempt to perfect the species and make people immune to all disease has shortened human lifespan: A virus now kills women at the age of twenty and men at the age of twenty-five. Desperate to extend the family lineage, powerful families force young women into polygamous marriages. Rhine is one of three new brides who are held captive, but lavishly cared for, in a sprawling mansion. The three wives—Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily—live in a rich and seemingly perfect world filled with beautiful clothes, wonderful foods, and lush gardens. But danger lurks around the corner when Rhine develops a relationship with a house servant, Gabriel, and starts to suspect that her father-in-law is conducting mysterious research in the basement of the mansion in the name of finding an antidote. Rhine’s best chance of escaping is to win her husband Linden’s favor as his first wife and, together with Gabriel, plot her getaway.

PREREADING ACTIVITY

How might society be different if scientists could create a generation of human beings immune to all disease? Would such a world be ideal? Why or why not?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Rhine is snatched off the streets by Gatherers and wakes up in a satin bed in a mansion owned by a House Govern see more

About the Author

Lauren DeStefano
© 2011 Ali Smith alismith.com

Lauren DeStefano

Lauren DeStefano is the author of The Internment Chronicles and the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden trilogy, which includes Wither, Fever, and Sever. She earned her BA in English with a concentration in creative writing from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut. Visit her at LaurenDeStefano.com.

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