|Fever (The Chemical Garden Trilogy #2)
by Lauren DeStefano
Published by Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: February 21, 2012
My Source: Borrowed
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. -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts: I’m often cautious about the second book in a series, particularly if I’ve loved the first one deeply, because they’re not often as great. This is not one of those instances. I waited to read Lauren DeStefano’s Wither until I was lucky enough to have a borrowed advanced copy of Fever in my hands: literally the second after I closed the book on Wither, I opened Fever and kept going…
Fever begins within a day after Wither ends. It starts on a hopeful note, with Rhine and Gabriel just having escaped the confines of the Ashby mansion and the evil that is Housemaster Vaughn. (not a spoiler!) Cold and wet after their stolen boat runs out of gas, they walk ashore to make a plan to further their escape and find Rhine’s beloved twin brother, Rowan. And at this point, the hopeful note is gone, gone, gone for the most part. From this point forward, it is a page-turning, nail-biting mess of emotion as I journeyed with Rhine and Gabriel across the states as she tried to make it back to her Manhattan home. I thought Wither was horrifying yet beautiful (remember Cecily, anyone?), but I had absolutely no idea what Fever had in store for me. I was unprepared. Fever completely demolished me.
1. Rhine Ashby. Rhine is back, and she’s stronger than ever. This time, however, her baggage is far heavier. She not only has to look after herself, but she has Gabriel to take care of. Remember, Gabriel has no knowledge for survival outside of the mansion, no memory of freedom. So Rhine has to carry him, so to speak. The horrors they face, together, are atrocious and nauseating. But once again, I am deeply emotionally attached to Rhine. Even though she spends most of her time either physically exhausted, physically ill, or under the influence of a drug someone else gave her…she persevered and rose above her circumstances. Rhine is one of the most amazing characters I’ve ever read.
Rhine is still looking for Rowan. She is still running from Vaughn, believe it or not. She is still fighting to stay away from the Gatherers…just because she’s been caught and sold once doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. OH! this girl, you guys, this girl! She is strong and fierce and resilient. Her determination makes me feel stupid…on a good day. SUCH a great character, even when she’s drugged or terribly sick. The more I read her, the more I like her.
2. Gabriel. Sweet, sweet Gabriel! The house servant-turned-escapee from the mansion who fell in love with the governor’s wife…Gabriel risked everything to be with her. Now that he is out and on his own, the poor boy has no idea what to do. He is beaten to within inches of his life more than once and drugged for the majority of the book, but he still manages to honor Rhine and treat her with dignity, respect, and love. He never forces himself on her, he never pushes her to do anything she is not ready for, he never whines or complains of their situation. His feelings for Rhine lept off of the page in every scene, no matter which emotion he was going through. Throughout the book, Gabriel grows from a servant-boy into a man and I couldn’t help but fall for him harder every time I turned the page. He was written beautifully. And I still Love him.
3. Other Characters. The other characters have shuffled a bit since Wither, which is understandable. Some are gone, some are barely a part of the book, and then there are some new faces. Some are horrid and some are amazing. Once again, they are all fully developed and three-dimensional, and I felt like I knew them all just by reading them. After reading two of DeStefano’s books, I can at this point say that I admire and respect her ability to flesh out her characters, and I feel comfortable seeking out her work for this reason. Also, once again, DeStefano was able to take an amazingly already-developed Rhine and continue once again to develop her, which blew me away. The winner for character development though, I’m quite sure, goes to the incredible Gabriel, who touched my heart in every scene in which he was written. A few words on a few characters:
- Vaughn. Ugh, I’m still nauseated and shuddering at how truly evil this man is. He was really bad back at the mansion, but now he’s chasing Rhine across the country? He’s ruthless, truly. And yet still, I think he is one of the best – if not THE best – villians I’ve ever read before in my life. (Gosh, it almost hurts to type that out.) He is SO BAD.
- Lilac. A teenage girl forced into prostitution with an amazing back story and a daughter that you will fall in love with. Lilac works at the Carnival: a despicable, wretched, filthy place where prostitutes are housed and mistreated. It is HERE that Gabriel is beaten nearly to death and drugged for nearly the entire time he is there. He and Rhine are degraded and berated and made to perform in unthinkable ways, and it is Lilac and her kindness and generosity and selflessness that helps them make it through this stage of their journey. She is definitely a character to look for in this book because her story is touching.
- Maddie. Lilac’s young daughter. Maddie has a physical malformation and she is also mute. Despite being viewed as an oddity and worthless, and forced to do chore-work at the Carnival, this child is a force to be reckoned with! She is smart and strong and very brave for someone so small and young. She will have you laughing and probably crying. Love her.
- Silas. Oh, handsome Silas! Another young man who has loved and lost… I am forever a fan of Gabriel, but I can’t wait until you all can meet Silas. sigh sigh sigh
4. The World-Building. HERE is where DeStefano shines with her world-building! In Wither, most of our worldview was contained to within the mansion. In Fever, most of the story takes place outside. Wither set up the story of what the virus did to people; Fever begins to show the effect of the virus on the world. This is some of the best world-building for a dystopian that I’ve seen. I feel like I could paint or draw a picture of each scene, each street, each building, each community that DeStefano wrote, and they’d all be in shades of gray. Absolutely brilliant.
5. Plot twists. Fever is FULL OF THEM. And they are shocking and heartbreaking. They come from nowhere, around every corner. You read a page or two and think you’ve gotten a break and then BAM! something new and utterly crazy comes flying off of the page and completely rocks both Rhine’s world and yours. Amazing, that Lauren DeStefano. Amazing.
6. The Ending. My heart was beating so fast during the last quarter of this book. Every emotion I could possibly feel, I felt x 100,000. I was exhausted and I had no fingernails left. I cried and I probably screamed a little. It was agonizing but I loved it. There is an absolute set-up for the next book in the series, and I CANNOT IMAGINE what we will read about next. (The wait for book three will be/is already painful.)
7. The Cover. Are you kidding me? Since I first saw it, I’ve seen discussions all over the place about it, ranging from how beautiful it is to how ridiculous it is. Truthfully, the cover is spectacular. Every detail in the cover is in the book, and they all flow together to create a cohesive theme. The designer did a crazy-brilliant job and I’m speechless over it. It’s gorgeous and totally relates to the book.
Once again, I am struck by the elegance and sheer beauty of the words on the page, even in the face of disaster and chaos. Lauren DeStefano has a talent for the written word and it is amazing how she has chosen to share it with us by beautifully creating a masterpiece that is so thrilling, so scary, and so horrifyingly possible. I am truly a fan and certainly will read whatever she writes from here forward.
I want to point out that no matter what I spend my time saying to you all, it will not do this book justice. You have to experience this book – this series – for yourself. I’ve been sitting on my thoughts for weeks, trying to decide exactly what to share with you all. I have pages and pages of notes and all of my thoughts just keep swimming around in my head. In the end, I just want to tell you it’s beautiful and amazing and chilling and horrifying – it’s one of my favorites, and I’d love for you to read it.
Friends, I cannot impress upon you enough how WRECKED I am after reading this book. I want to reach through the pages of Fever and grab Rhine and hug her and relieve her of some of her burden. I also want to grab Gabriel and reassure him that he made a good decision to follow Rhine and he is honorable in his choices and he is respectable and I adore him for it. I want to make their world better. This beautiful book has me heartbroken for their condition, but I want to stay so acutely in tune with them to make sure they make it through okay. And AAAHHH we won’t know the rest of the story until the next book!
If you are reading this without having read Wither: First of all, go grab Wither and get to it! But make sure Fever makes it to your wish list. Better yet, pre-order it or buy it! This series needs to be read, devoured, passed around, discussed, whatever. Read it and tell your friends about it. Think about it. Get emotional over it. Be inspired by it.
*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review.