Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fever by Lauren DeStefano



The Chemical Garden Reviews
Wither, Fever, and Sever

Published: February 21 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Website: Author’s Website 

*Fair Warning: I try to keep this as spoiler free as possible but it is difficult!

Introduction
Gabrielle and Rhine have escaped the gilded cage mansion and have washed ashore. They are promptly hit with the realization that they are in their cruel dystopian world that is unkind to people without a home. This installment is about them trying to make it back home to Manhattan, to Rhine’s brother, Rowan. They pick up another character, a girl without security in the world concerned with perfecting and correcting genes. Together they travel to Rhine’s former home, until the fever hits. What is it?   

The Scarlet Carnival
The first place to take advantage of them is Madame’s cruel carnival-a scarlet district prostitution ring. The girls are haggard with teeth rotten and wearing dirty exotic dresses. Madame takes a liking to Rhine and she falls into a dilemma: Vaughan cannot find her in the circus, but she is being used by a woman who is a predator in the business of selling pretty flesh until it is ruined.
Sound intriguing? I was bored. Like the first book, Wither, the circus is a confined space with a set domestic space and rules, like the mansion. I was craving for them to just LEAVE and explore and have more agency. I am supposed to be creeped out by the way Madame collects girls to sell their flesh until they die. In reality, this happens in real life. It is scary, though it is nothing new. 
Perhaps I am what you consider well-read, but I get the whole sexual enslavement issue. The whole scenario about how she’s there but not as a full prostitute made me stick out my tongue and go “PFFFT.” Yeah, right. As if she’d be kept there without having the dirty experience. It’s just because DeStefano wanted to give us the nitty-gritty inside of the sexual enslavement of the world AND keep her character extremely pure. This world doesn’t keep anyone pure, by the way, so this whole virginal main character concept is ridiculously unbelievable. If you read Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood , both by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, you’ll get a more realistic sense of what happens to women in a dystopian society that is driven by gratification.     
Ermahgerd guys, prostitution!  

Characters
I found this installment lacked the vibrant and complete cast of characters that its predecessor has. There are a lot of fleeting characters because the duo are on the move. There’s Lilac, the intelligent and beautiful prostitute, and her daughter, Maddie, a “malformed” child who does not speak. Madame, the ring-master of the carnival of tattered silk prostitutes.  The rest of the characters, to me, are replicas in different areas that serve the same roles. Ally, enemy, abuser. I understand that it is difficult to give depth to characters when you don’t spend much time with them because the characters are going elsewhere.

Cover
I like this cover as a cover much better Wither’s cover. The model still has the ring, she holds the card (part of a lame attempt at dramatic symbolism by the author), and she looks unwell. The title is Fever, and (surprise) everybody at some point feels unwell, but the model looks…not attractively unwell. You might say, well, duh, she’s supposed to be sick. But when you’re talking about modeling something artistically, there are ways to convey the idea right…and better. This girl looks…bored (oh hey it’s me when I was reading the circus passages!), or like she’s high, or like (as pointed out on Goodreads) she has some bodily functions to take care of. I think it would have been more effective to make her pale or flushed, sweaty, and give her dishevelled hair. In the first book, the rat’s nest was uncalled for. Here, it’s alright because she’s ill and has nowhere to go and no brush to untangle her hair.

Story Progression
The story of Fever is both linear and knotted. They are en route to Rowan. They get stuck in the carnival. The go on their way, towards Rowan. Little blips happen, and they get untangled and keep going towards their destination. It is not until the end when “stuff” happens and the linear, planned plot goes away. I like the ending much more than the whole first half of the book. It was hard to care too much when everything is so planned. Yes, “stuff” happens and it is interesting. Yet I found myself craving for when they are forced into something more unexpected. I wanted desperately for the plan to unravel and throw something at me that would make me squirm to read and turn the page. It does happen, but not until later. When it happened, putting the book down was impossible.     

Writing
Even when the plot isn’t terribly engaging…the writing is always well-crafted. Now, what does that mean?

The writing brings the world into reality: eerily dystopian and disgustingly beautiful.

Everything seems right in her writing this time. I wish I can one day write something that conveys the world to be so multifaceted like DeStefano does. There’s mansions, malls, pretty dresses, slavery, forced marriage, candy, kidnapping, family, prostitution, murders, sister wives, drugs, love…all these textures are weaved in the pages of the book. 

Next Book: Sever
Yes please! I am reading Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch (I ordered it in November from my library and it came in on July 30!) and then it’s off to finish The Chemical Garden Trilogy with Sever! I can’t wait! This trilogy is honestly the hottest thing on my mind (book-wise) and in my mind, the highest anticipated book in a series that I have encountered in a while.

Verdict
            An excellent sequel to the first book. It doesn’t quite deliver on the expectations that you might hope for from the first book. Instead of an adventure it is more like a boring road trip where you keep asking “Are we there yet?”. This book also lacks profound moments because the author places her character in a world of prostitution and squeezes her into an unrealistic role of purity there. Fever is excellently written, though the book doesn’t take us very far story wise. There is advancement between Gabrielle and Rhine, and some more characters that won’t mention to spoil it. The first half was dead-boring to me, but the last 50 or so pages keep me reading and excited for the next book.   

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