Fever (Chemical Garden 2)
By Lauren DeStefano
Simon and Schuster
February 21, 2012
This review is part of the Catch Wither Fever Event, hosted by Andrea at Overstuffed Bookcase and Jessie at Daily Bookmark
As I usually do for books in a series, I'll do a non-spoilery recap, then give you my thoughts on Fever, which is book two in this trilogy.
When I first heard about the Chemical Garden trilogy, I really wasn't sure it was for me. In the story world of these books, genetic manipulation has backfired, sentencing an entire generation to an early death: women at twenty and men at twenty-five.Young girls are rounded up on the streets and then either shot, forced into prostitution, or compelled into polygamous marriages so they can try to produce healthy children before they die. Barrel of laughs, right?
But I was packing for a trip and needed a lot of books. I threw an ARC of Wither into my beach bag. Yes, the story was dark, but it cast a strange sort of spell over me. I was hooked.
What won me over? First, I have to admire Lauren DeStefano for not wimping out in the dystopian worldbuilding department. Dystopian fiction is supposed to be dark and chilling, and these books certainly are. Second, she writes beautifully -- finding ways to celebrate the strength of the human spirit even in grim circumstances. Rhine, the heroine, is kidnapped and forced into a polygamous marriage with Linden, a young House Governor with a rich, crazy father. Linden already has a dying wife, his childhood sweetheart, but he marries three new girls, Rhine among them. Rhine forms a touching emotional bond with her fellow sister wives. She tries to resign herself to her circumstances, but she longs for freedom.
I won't go into any more plot details, but I don't think it's that much of a spoiler to say that book one ends with Rhine's escape attempt. If you haven't read Wither and really don't want any details about what happens next, skip the next two paragraphs. But really, no major spoilers. Promise!
My summary of Fever:
Fever takes up right where Wither left off. Rhine and Gabriel, the household servant she's fallen in love with, steal a boat and flee the Florida compound where Rhine has been imprisoned. Things don't go so well. Rhine and Gabriel stumble upon a ramshackle carnival, run by the sinister Madame Soleski. Madame is entranced by Rhine's beauty, and wants Rhine to join her stable of young girls. To control Gabriel, Madame gets him addicted to angel's blood, an injectable drug.
Rhine soon sees that Madame's harem is yet another prison, and she begins to plot their escape. Unfortunately, Gabriel's drug addiction makes him less than helpful. Will Rhine be able to make it home to New York City and find her brother? Or has she found herself trapped like a butterfly under glass yet again?
Again, I'm amazed and impressed at the subtexts and issues that Lauren DeStefano so effortlessly weaves into her writing. Rhine's beauty is what saves her and imperils her, all at the same time. Her striking, unusual looks draw the attention of others, and not always to her benefit. Yet, strangely, Rhine never tries to make herself less noticeable. She is who she is. And her beauty is her currency in this strange world, I guess.
I also love the way the author is able to create such a pervasive sense of melancholy and menace. As in Wither, the story world of this book is both seedy and beguiling.
Finally, Lauren DeStefano never takes the easy way out, plot-wise. In Fever, Rhine is forced to face the fact that her escape plan was impulsive and ill-conceived. Things don't go very well. It never occurs to her that Gabriel, who doesn't have any memory of freedom, might find the outside world alarming and strange. Rhine compares him to a goldfish she once had as a child, in a vignette I found both insightful and touching.
This book's beautiful storytelling and fantastic characters kept me completely transfixed. By the last chapter, it's clear that Rhine's life is about to take a sudden twist. I'm SO ready for the next installment!
Postscript: I'm always trying to shorten reviews, so I rarely comment on a book's cover. But I just have to express my admiration for Lizzy Bromley, the designer of this book. Everything about these covers is perfect -- the spookily beautiful photos, the iconic props (birdcage, tarot card) plus the cool graphics on the title page. Someone give this woman an award!!
Have you read this series? Are you planning to?
I still have to read this! I pre-ordered it and never got to it. Lol! Hopefully next month I will have some time and I can get to it. Great review, and I totally agree with the cover!!ReplyDelete
Can't wait to hear what you think!Delete
I haven't read Wither, but I know I need to. I stopped reading when you said. Wither has been on my shelf for far too long now. :)ReplyDelete
Okay, come back and let me know your thoughts once you read it!Delete
It looks like this is a good series ,,, i didn't read the first book but it look i will soon ,,, GREAT REVIEW :)ReplyDelete
Thanks so much!Delete
Hope you like them as much as I did!
I actually liked Fever even more than Wither. There's something so haunting about this story and Lauren's writing. She's doing a signing here in a few weeks and I am beyond excited to meet her! And your right, those are the most gorgeous covers EVER! The women deserves some props for her work!ReplyDelete
I though they were both good -- Fever was different than I expected but I still really enjoyed it. Have fun at the signing!!Delete
Even though Fever is a great book, I liked Wither better. I agree with you about how the author did a wonderful job keeping the character's reaction and situation realistic. They didn't just escaped and lived happily ever after. They started to question themselves.ReplyDelete
I know -- I loved that. It was realistic and very moving. But I have a feeling things will pick up in the final installment.Delete
I've read books that were classified as Dystopian, but they fell short on the despair & dread. So, good to know thank you.ReplyDelete
LOL. As long as you like that sort of thing, you'll love these!Delete
I haven't read either but based on your reviews I think I may try them out. Honestly, the cover turned me off. I just wanted the girl to sit up straight and test her for anemia :) But now I get that I am supposed to be filled with a sense of despair. Got it.ReplyDelete
Yes!! Try them and tell me what you think!Delete
Love the photos --- they just fit the books really well!
Great review! :D I totally agree with what you say about Lauren's writing, and you've just made me more excited to read them. Fever's just sitting on my bookshelf, but now its calling me to read it! :PReplyDelete
And yes, I really love the book's design! It's so eerily beautiful! And the copyright pages are so cool with all those lines and boxes. :)
Thanks -- that's such a nice thing of you to say.Delete
Now ..... read it!!!
I love the cover... and dark and chilling? It sounds scary to me but I think I want to read this seriesReplyDelete
Try it out and let me know what you think!Delete
I will put it in my wishlist :)Delete
I just saw u will be having Divergent trivia and giveaway. Bummer I haven't read the books. But it would be interesting to find out facts about the book :)
I just finished Fever as well and I liked it! More than Wither in fact. It is definitely disturbing. I hate to hear about women forced into marriage and having kids. YIKES! Two very serious things I'm not sure I even want to do by choice let alone by force! I loved Gabriel in this one. Poor guy but he did it all for Rhine and stood by her during everything horrible. I was rather happy with the ending. It's about time Linden got a wake up call. He redeems himself a bit but I still hate him and think he should have known better.ReplyDelete
Agree completely. Can't wait to see how it all wraps up!Delete
My review of Fever is up, so now I can finally read yours!ReplyDelete
Ah, you read a lot more into the book than I did! I mean, I found the obvious symbols and themes, but I didn't even catch that one about Rhine's beauty being both her savior and her undoing! Very nice! I think I'll have to read these books again because now that I think about it, there were a lot more underlying metaphors than I realized!
And yeah, I loved how she came to realize that her escape plan might not have been the best idea. Even though she had good intentions, there were consequences to her actions.
And such great covers, I agree! I liked Wither more, but they both are just so perfect and striking. And the font and graphics inside are so cool!
Great review, Jen, and thanks again for participating in the Catch Wither Fever event! ;)
LOL -- I also don't like reading reviews unit l read a book and/or finish my review.Delete
Thanks so much for hosting the event. It was great!