(Book 1 of the Chemical Garden Trilogy)
by Lauren DeStefano
Dystopian YA trilogy, there are so many of them!!! After a while they all blur together and honestly this one falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. After reading quite a few heavy books I was in the mood for something quick and fun and this one worked well.
The first book in the series sucks you in from the first page. Rhine, a teenager with wild hair and different colored eyes, is kidnapped from Manhattan where she lived with her twin brother Rowan. She, along with two other girls, is taken to become a child bride to a rich man, Linden. Even though she’s only 16-years-old, this practice is completely normal in the twisted society the world has become.
Decades earlier geneticists found a cure for cancer, but in doing so they destroyed the human race. The “cured” generation seems almost immortal, but their children only live to be 20 if they are female and 25 if they are male. The world has been like this for years and the ensuing chaos and overwhelming number of orphans is heartbreaking.
The two other brides, the aloof Jenna and ditzy Cecily live with Rhine in a mansion that’s more prison than paradise. As Rhine plans her escape she tries to understand the world around her. Although it seems almost harmless on the surface, her father-in-law, Vaughn, runs a darker world behind the scenes in the mansion. An attendant named Gabriel provides a source of comfort in the midst of her loneliness.
by Lauren DeStefano
Fever picks up right where Wither drops off. Gabriel and Rhine are on the run. They find themselves at a macabre carnival full of things to fear. It felt like a filler book to me. The new characters made more sense after reading the third book, but at the time many of them feel random and over-the-top. I also felt like Rhine and Gabriel’s relationship was always tenuous at best. Fever made me feel even less invested in it somehow. I felt like the whole book could have been a few extra chapters at the end of Wither and the beginning of Sever.
Severby Lauren DeStefano
This final installment dug into the meat of the history of this dystopia. Up to this point DeStefano has only ever hinted at the research that was being done to find a cure. In Sever she is able to fully explore the history of Rhine’s parents, the virus and even Linden and his father’s relationship. I loved having the chance to learn about the background of the characters. We also got the chance to see main characters, like Linden, deepen and show more layers. Cecily was such an insipid, annoying girl in the first two books, but in Sever she becomes a strong woman who stands up for herself and her family.
For the first time I final cared about Linden, who waffled through the first two books, skimming the surface but rarely leaving a lasting impact. Seeing both Vaughn and Linden’s motivations lent a much-needed sympathy to the characters. I loved Reed, Vaughn’s prickly brother. I felt like Sever did so much to flesh out the characters. I was frustrated at times with Rhine’s passive nature. It seemed like she kept waiting for someone else to take action. She was along for the ride instead of fighting for what she wanted. She would hold her tongue in situations where it seemed vital that she explain why she was doing what she was doing.
BOTTOM LINE: The trilogy was just what I wanted, fast reads with enthralling plots. There are definitely pieces that feel like they come straight from another dystopian trilogy, like the constant primping of the girls by attendants (Hunger Games) or the brother who becomes a supporter of the villains’ plans (Divergent), but overall I was entertained. I didn’t like them enough to ever re-read them. The characters were often too wooden, the plot too predictable, but they are great for a reading break when you need one.
“I didn’t dare touch her. Loss is a knowledge I’m sorry to have. Perhaps the only thing worse than experiencing it is watching it reply anew in someone else – all its awful stages picking up like a chorus that has to be sung.”