Series: The Chemical Garden #2
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 21st 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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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.
This is the first book I’ve read this year that grabbed me. And I mean it grabbed me. In fact, it’s the first book that’s going right on my “2012 favs” shelf. You know I’m picky and you know my bar is pretty high, but I LOVED this book. Lauren DeStefano stole my heart with her lyrical prose in Wither, but she took my breath away with Fever.
But before I start gushing uncontrollably about how much I loved this book, I feel I need to talk about this cover for a minute. I’m gonna be honest here and say that when I first saw this cover, I didn’t exactly like it. In fact, my exact words were, “It looks awful. And why does her hair look like that? She looked so much better on the first cover. She looks like she is strung out on drugs. Total fail on this one. Smh.” *Sigh* I really should stop judging a book by its cover because unlike some books where the cover is completely misleading *cough*The Shadow Reader*cough*, Fever’s is very accurate. Every detail you see on that cover has something to do with the plot from the drugged facial expression and body position, to the tarot cards, right down to the color of the dress. Yes, yes. Someone read this book before the photo shoot (or at least given notes)and it SHOWS. Good job. Please, someone give that person a Klondike bar. So, while I do still love Wither’s cover better, I take back the negatives I said last July.
Now that that’s off my chest, time for the review. Let gushing commence.
Fever picks up exactly where Wither left off. Gabriel and Rhine have escaped the mansion and Housemaster Vaughn and are attempting to make their way to New York city (or what’s left of it) to find Rhine’s twin brother, Rowen. Obviously, that’s sounds more easy that what it is because they live in a world where their youth coupled with the virus makes them a target for prostitution, weird scientific experiments, and forced servitude. If you think it couldn’t get any more disturbing than Cecily’s pregnancy in Wither, you were wrong. Right from the beginning Rhine and Gabriel stumble across one of these horrors at a sick and twisted carnival where the only fun to be had is dependent upon how much the “John” is willing to pay for. However, they quickly learn escaping that deadly playground is not their only problem because Vaughn is after Rhine and he will stop at nothing to get her back.
I’m not giving away any spoilers. So, if you clicked this review hoping for some details about what’s going to happen next, guess what?
Does Rhine find Rowen? Does Vaughn catch up to Rhine? What happened to Cecily? Why is it called “Fever”? All of those questions I can’t answer. You’ll just have to read the book. But I will tell you what I LOVED about this book.
This is one of those books where you really can’t predict what’s going to happen next. That’s mostly due to the fact that we didn’t have a good idea of what the outside world was like in Wither. Well, in Fever you get a full-blown dose of Rhine’s reality. It is not pretty and it’s grim. Rhine and Gabriel seem to go from one horrible thing to the next. I can’t even decide which of them is worse. Scientific experiment or a drugged out prostitute? Which would you pick? I mean, jumping off a cliff would start to seem like the optimal choice. But somehow due to Rhine’s determination and strength, they escape. Their journey to New York is not an easy one and it had me flipping through the pages needing to know what happened next. There is one part in the book that slows on you and at first I was wondering when it would pick back up, but when it did it just made me appreciate the down time. The plot twist hits you like a freight train.
The characters (old and new):
While staying at the Carnival of Horrors, or as I like call it “Cirque de Prostitute”, we meet one of the best new characters in the series, Maddie. She is a brilliant child who is slightly malformed and a mute. Her characterization was genius and while it may seem like you should feel sorry for her handicaps, she doesn’t need your pity. It’s easy to say she was one of the reasons why I fell in love with this book. Maddie’s mother, Lilac, a nineteen year old prostitute, also was a winner and her story breaks my heart.
Rhine is just as strong as ever. She’s goes throughout most of the novel worried if she made the right decision to leave the mansion behind. She’s a bit unsure of herself. But unlike other indecisive heroines, Rhine’s indecision is understandable. At the mansion she had food, water, and the option to live the remainder of her years relatively comfortably. She gave that all away to be free, but she learns that freedom only goes but so far in her world and she feels terrible for dragging Gabriel into it. Rhine is a very relatable character. Determined, caring, rebellious, and stubborn. I loved her in Wither and I loved her even more in Fever.
Gabriel is one of those characters that, while I like him, I’m not sure how connected I felt to him. For the most part he relies on Rhine to navigate their cruel world and you can tell he really cares for her. However, I don’t know how much I cared for him. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want him to die or anything, but I think that is mostly for Rhine’s sake not because I would miss him. I did appreciate his fierceness to protect Rhine in a world where it’s impossible to make such promises.
Beautiful. Once again DeStefano mesmerized me with her prose. I feel like I want to paste my favorite quotes in this review, but there are so many. Not only that, but I don’t know if they would sound as good as they do when you read the book. Rhine’s narration just flows together in this book like one huge poem. And I worry that if quote it, it won’t do the passage justice. But I’m going to try anyway. 🙂
“I should not have loved my daughter as I did. Not in this world in which nothing lives for long. You children are flies. You are roses. You multiply and die.”
Everything that happened before feels like a million years ago now. This is the freedom I craved throughout my marriage. To share a bed not because of a wedding ring or a one-sided promise that was made for me, but because of desire. Inexplicable yet undeniable. I have never craved closeness like this for anyone else.
And my personal favorite out of the entire novel:
He kissed back, all the pages spread out around us like riddles waiting to be solved. Let them wait. Let my genes unravel, my hinges come loose. If my fate rests in the hands of a madman, let death come and bring its worse. I’ll take the ruined craters of laboratories, the dead trees, this city with ashes in the oxygen, if it means freedom. I’d sooner die here than live a hundred years with wires in my veins
Gah! I could live off of bread, water and pretty prose for the rest of my days. I just love it!
Whew. WOW. Jeez, man. That last third? OMG, horribly perfect. It’s one of those endings where all the shit is hitting the fan and everything’s going straight to hell first class faster than you can say “in a hand basket” and you’re wondering how this book is supposed to end, that Rhine can’t possibly escape this one. It blew me away and left me hanging! THAT DARN CLIFFHANGER!!!
Why, Lauren? Why did you do that to me? Between you and Cynthia Hand how am I supposed to survive until 2013?! Curses, curses, curses!
Recommendation: If you loved Wither or even just liked it, you will most likely enjoy Fever. If you didn’t like Wither at all, you may like Fever a little better. *shrugs* Up to you folks!
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the author. Are these my honest opinions? Pfft…I can’t believe you would even doubt me.