Wither by Lauren DeStefano
What would your life be like if you knew that you would die of a virus before you were able to grow old? If you knew the year of your death as soon as you were born? That is the world Rhine lives in. All women die at twenty, all men at twenty-five.
The author does a great job creating an alternate future and puzzling out what the new social and economic structure would be like. Rhine lived in a brownstone in Manhattan with her twin brother before being snatched and married, along with two other girls, to a wealthy man living in a mansion in Florida. The differences between the lives of the poor and struggling and the wealthy and advantaged are in stark contrast. The dynamics between characters, especially the three very different sister wives, really moves the story along and makes you like (and loathe) the people in Rhine’s insulated world.
While this book, first in a series, fits the whole teen dystopia novel subgenre, it is different in subtle, hopeful, ways. What I really liked was that it wasn’t set eons after the virus shortened human lifespans; there are people walking around in their fifties and sixties, members of the last generation of unaffected. In my mind that means that there is hope; there are scientists who have been working on a cure and could one day be successful. At least my fingers are crossed that one of the dystopian series I read will have a true happy ending!