Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (2012)
YA / Dystopian
Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.
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.
Despite the fairly cliché premise of Wither, I enjoyed the first book in Lauren DeStefano’s The Chemical Garden series. The characters were mostly well-developed and I enjoyed the interactions between the sister wives and how each reacted to their husband who was forced on them. But mostly I liked Gabriel. He was super sweet and I might have swooned a time or two as his relationship with Rhine grew. In the end of Wither, I was satisfied. It was a sort of off-into-the-sunset sort of endings where I could believe that Rhine returned to her twin brother with Gabriel in tow and they were all generally happy despite their short life spans.
So there really wasn’t any reason for me to read the sequel. But I did anyway.
Way to stomp all over my dream of a happy ending, Lauren DeStefano. There is not a single happy moment in Fever. From page one until the very last sentence, it’s like DeStefano wanted to beat me with depressing event after depressing event. I should have known when it took Rhine all of five pages to get kidnapped again that this book was not going to go in her favor. Everything that could go wrong does. There’s prostitution, drug addiction, malformed children, child abuse, autoimmune diseases and the general destruction of what little light was in The Chemical Garden’s world to begin with.
Bleak isn’t even the word for it. Harrowing, maybe? Emotionally exhausting? Whatever it is, it left me raw and craving anything but drama. I was lucky enough to read it all in a 24 hour time span or I think I would have set it down only to dread coming back to it. It’s the sort of book that you look at from the corner of your eye from across a room and wish it would disappear so you wouldn’t feel compelled to go on. But yet I went on.
Gabriel, who won me over from the beginning and was absolutely my favorite part of Wither, is hardly in this book. When he is it’s either through the eyes of Rhine in the middle of a fever-induced delirium or while he is not quite in his right mind. Where he was the light in the darkness before, he only succumbs to the bleakness in this world. It made me very sad and kept me from being surprised when everything kept going from bad to worse.
The strength Rhine showed in Wither is mostly missing in Fever, but not because she’s suddenly turned into a meek wallflower. For most of this book she’s incapacitated in one way or another, making it difficult for her to make many decisions and, when she does make choices, to go down the harder path. So her path just keeps tossing her further into the darkness bleeding into every aspect of this world.
It’s compelling, heart-breaking reading. DeStefano is still filling out a world that was just outside the mansion that made up the scenario of the first book. Things that had been said are now shown and they’re all much worse than described. The level of evil in people – whether fueled by despair or megalomania – keeps reaching plateaus of bad until you think no one could be any worse. Something tells me, however, that DeStefano will find some way to make it worse.
Fever isn’t a bad book. It’s just a very bleak one without any of the moments of hope that were scattered throughout Wither. No one is getting a happy ending and I definitely did not feel satisfied with the ending. So many things are left up in the air, people separated by continents while the world crumbles around them. With most other authors I would assume that, in the end, everything would eventually reach that happily-ever-after.
With Lauren DeStefano – after reading Fever – I’m not so sure.