Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Release date: February 21, 2012
Series: Chemical Garden #2
Source: ARC from S&S Canada
Reviewed by: Tynga
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.
Escaping Vaughn and his crazy experiment and finding her twin brother has been Rhine’s goal for months and now that she succeeded with the first phase, it’s time for part two! Thankfully, Rhine isn’t alone. Gabriel, her faithful friend, is with her on this insane journey and his help will be more than needed to face all the challenges awaiting them along the road. They are out of the mansion, but they’re not safe yet, and are they really out of Vaughn’s reach?
Let me start by saying that this was one depressing book. If you haven’t read Wither, the first book in the series, you need to know that the world Lauren created is harsh. A war destroyed the world as we know it, and only the American continent remains. Humanity tempered with things they shouldn’t have: their DNA. The result? Every kid is born with an expiration date. At age 25 for boys, and 20 for girls, they are gripped by a terrible incurable virus. To counter the effect, girls are kidnapped and sold to become wives in polygamous marriages and bear as many child as possible.
In Fever, Rhine and Gabriel find themselves on the road and the world is in even worst shape than Rhine remembered. Kidnapping, prostitution, rape, murder, famine, drugs are only a few elements our pair of heroes will face and it’s not pretty. I said it before, it’s a very harsh and depressing picture and I would avoid reading Fever if you are already down. DeStefano really mastered the gloomy atmosphere and it’s really hard to stay impassive to the events portrayed. I have to tip her my metaphorical hat because she fearlessly addressed some very controversial subjects, and made it work.
I had a love/hate relationship with Rhine this time around. She was strong and determined at times, yet weak and weepy at others. She still has this strong urge to protect others and will find herself in charge of a malformed (as they call ‘em) child and I liked it. But on the other hand, things aren’t going as she wanted and she is devastated and ready to give up. While it is a very human and real way to react, I want to shake some sense into her! Gabriel was the same sweet boy but he was somewhat subdue compared to Rhine. We also got to meet some great new characters and even if I had higher hopes for his character, I had a sweet spot for Silas.
I liked Fever’s plot a lot more than Wither’s plot because it constantly moved forward. R&G starts their journey on the run, face a first challenge, they overcome it but not without consequences. As they move toward their goals, they will face even more encounters and once they get to destination, it’s nothing like they expected and their mission has to change. It’s not over yet though, and Rhine’s biggest fear awaits her around the corner. The whole novel is knitted in a way that will keep you on your toes, because there’s no way you can guess what will come next.
I hated to cover of Fever when it was first released, but now that I’ve read the book in totally make sense. The merry-go-round, the tarot card, her outfit and her drug addict look are all meaningful to the story. It’s a very daring move from the art department because it’s a shocking cover, but at least the readers know what they are getting into!
In conclusion, Fever was a lot more dispiriting than Wither was, which makes it difficult to say that I liked it more, but it sure felt like a much stronger read. This series isn’t for the weak-hearted though, so make sure you know what you’re getting into when you pick it up. Gloomy, daunting, cruel and distressing, the Chemical Garden trilogy will swipe you off your feet and kick you while you’re down for good measure. You’ll need time to recover once you’re done reading it, but you’ll enjoy the ride nonetheless.