by Lauren DeStefano
To be published by Simon and Schuster BFYR
on February 12, 2013
Source: ARC borrowed from Around the World ARC tours
Summary adapted from Goodreads: With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them. Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
My take: I'm a huge fan of this series. Lauren DeStefano is not just a wonderful writer, she's one of those rare authors who can fully imagine an amazing, unique world and then invite readers to step into it. If it's been a while since you've visited, my review of Fever (with a recap of Wither) is here. And this review will be spoiler-free!
I am entirely powerless.
As Sever opens, Rhine seems diminished. She's been through a lot in Fever, the prior book, and she's both physically weakened and mentally exhausted. As in the other two books in this trilogy, she's trying to get back to her brother Rowan, and in this book she will receive some help from both new friends and also people from her past. Rhine thinks she understands who in her world is evil and who is good, but she may have to rethink some of those preconceptions. She'll also have to accept help, to trust others, and to face everything that has happened to her and everything she has done.
To me, the endings of books (and trilogies) need to be both satisfying to the reader and fitting to the spirit of the trilogy. I think Sever did a wonderful job of tying up both the plot and the relationship strands of the story. It resolves, in one way or another, Rhine's feelings about and ties to Linden, to her sister wives, to her brother Rowan, and to Gabriel. I did not go into Sever expecting a warm and fuzzy happily ever after, because these books depict a post-apocalyptic world where hope and despair live side by side. Yes, there is tragedy in Sever, and there is also hope.
Maybe hope isn't the most dangerous thing a person can have. Maybe love is worse.
In a world in which women don't live to be older than twenty, in which babies die, in which lives are sacrificed in the name of science, love seems like a foolish endeavor. In Sever, Rhine will find love in some very unexpected places. Does this mean she finally ends up with Gabriel? My lips are sealed! All I will say is that I loved the fact that Sever didn't focus solely on the overdone love triangle or the swoony romance. I think love is the best kind of hope, and I loved the fact that Sever looked at many different kinds of love: between parent and child, between siblings, and between people who are bonded together through shared experience.
Another of my favorite things about the Chemical Garden trilogy is the way that, across the three books, Lauren DeStefano explores the tensions and interplay between opposing concepts. She repeatedly contrasts nature and science, beauty and grotesquery, creation and destruction, sameness and difference. She loves oxymorons, like the "chemical garden" and the twins with their heterochromic eyes. She writes complex characters who are both selfish and kind, both evil and loving, both foolish and wise.
I think I could read these books a dozen times and find something new with each reading. For me, the Chemical Garden trilogy, was a unique and amazing reading experience, one I will be sad to see end.
Have you read any books in this series?