Author: Lauren DeStefano
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy (Book 2)
Publication Date: February 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
ISBN-10: 144240907X (Simon & Schuster)
ISBN-13: 9781442409071 (Simon & Schuster)
Reviewed by: Emmy
Synopsis: Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.
The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary.
In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever.
Quick & Dirty: The sequel to Wither brings back everything we love about Rhine as well as the dystopian world DeStefano built with her wonderfully detailed descriptions. It’s a wonderful book and far more fast paced than the first one!
Opening Sentence: We run, with water in our shoes and the smell of ocean clinging to our frozen skin.
Everything there was to love about Wither–the worldbuilding, the narrative voice, the characters–is resurrected in Fever and even better. If that’s possible. Fever picks up almost right where the first book finished, with Rhine and Gabriel jumping ship and ending up somewhere on the coast of South Carolina (the mansion, we’re told in Wither was in Florida).
This book is much more location based instead of character and relationship based, maybe because the main character’s relationships have already been established. Rhine and Gabriel are trying to make it two Manhattan to find Rowan, but Vaughn is right behind them. There are two phases two the story, when they are at Madame’s Carnival of Carnal Delights and when they finally make it to the city. The carnival is the debilitated skeleton of what we think of as a carnival, with the Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round the only recognizable features. It’s used by Madame’s prostitutes to service their clients, and the girls are color coded by name and tent based on price, beauty, etc. The Madame, needless to say, is crazy. She’s first generation and watches her girls die with the same blase you’d see if someone killed their plant.
But it’s at the carnival we see Rhine taking up responsibility the same way she did in Wither. For Gabriel, for the little malformed girl they meet. One of my favorite things about Rhine is that though she grows as a character, she stays consistent. She’s constantly thinking of her twin Rowan, and we learn more about him as being out in the real world sparks more memories of him. As we read about her memories the reader starts to get more worried for Rowan too as more of his character comes into focus.
Rhine is a beautiful narrator. We see a lot of uncommon metaphors that draw you deeper into her character as they ground you in the details of her world. Things are constantly getting caught–laughter in wind chimes, ghosts in hair–and it makes not only the voice of the author distinct, but Rhine’s world far busier and more treacherous than our own.
We get to revisit a lot of character’s we met in Wither, like Jenna, through memories that Rhine has. Rhine ends up spending a lot of time thinking about what’s going on at the mansion, especially because Vaughn always seems so close behind them. Rhine never removes her wedding ring, which grows to represent the emotional tether she feels to everyone still at the mansion. Cecily, the baby Bowen, Deirdre…and Linden. DeStefano ties Rhine to these character’s throughout the book, making it clear that even though she’s finally escaped the mansion she’s more tied to it than she thought.
Gabriel plays an important role as well, and their relationship evolves both romantically and platonically as they fight to survive. Gabriel was auctioned off at the age of nine and never left the mansion. It’s interesting to see this broken America the way Rhine does and the reaction Gabriel has to it, which is similar to the readers. He’s strong, but he’s perhaps not as strong as Rhine, who didn’t grow up as isolated as Gabriel did. He never had to worry about Gatherers, or riots, or sleeping in shifts while your sibling held the rifle. But he adapts and evolves and in the end he’s fighting for more than his life. He’s fighting for Rhine’s too.
I loved this book. In many way’s even more than I did Wither. It’s more grounded in the world, has considerably less description about the clothes the wives were wearing (understand when you’re on the run you don’t have much), but the plot moves a lot faster too. Or maybe it just seems that way because they’re on the move. Either way, this isn’t a sequel that slumps the way many others do. So get excited and remember there’s more to come in book three!
Madame takes my hands and pulls me to my feet. She cups my face in her papery hands and smiles. “Even lovelier in the daylight my Goldenrod.”
I’m not her Goldenrod. I’m not her anything. But she seems to have claimed me as one of her possessions, her antiques, her plastic gems.
I will Gabriel not to mutter my name again. I don’t want Madame to have it, rolling it off her tongue the way she fondled the flowers of my wedding band.
She pouts. “You do not want to wear the beautiful dress I laid out for you?” It hangs over her arm now like a deflated corpse, like the bloodless body of the girl who wore it last.
The Chemical Garden Trilogy:
FTC Advisory: Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Fever. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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