Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sever by Lauren DeStefano

The Chemical Garden Reviews
Wither, Fever, and Sever
Published: February 20 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Website: Author’s Website
Author's Youtube

After months of experiments, Rhine is captured once again, but at least the truth is out. Unfortunately, not many people are willing to believe her. Reed, Vaughn’s brother, is an unexpected ally. In the final installment of the Chemical Garden Trilogy, Rhine journeys to find her twin brother Rowan, discovers Vaughn’s secrets, the virus’s secret, and the truth about the world. Her genetics hold vital information for developing the cure, and her brother is closer to all of this than she imagined.

I was hoping there’d be some severing of some limbs, and I am sorely disappointed that there are not. Only metaphorical severing.
In all seriousness it’s an appropriate title. It’s an end to certain ties, and this is the final book.
Could it have a better title? Probably.  

                The cover isn’t too bad. Ring’s off, there’s a bird NOT in a cage, and airplane, a globe. All fitting. What I hate are the bloody apples! NO.
                Stop with the apples.
                I’m so tired of the religious imagery.
                You can say that it’s the only thing she eats at Reed’s house. And it’s way too easy to associate the apples with the knowledge that she gets from Reed or his books.
                Can authors find some other way of being stupidly clever than inserting apples=knowledge and/or other religious themes with apple iconography? Please?   

There’s a death or two in here. One, the HUGE one, confuses me. I’m not entirely sure how this character died. For such a pivotal moment, I think it could have been explained better.
All I know is that I read the page and…a character died. I’m like, oh wait what?!
I still have no idea what happened. They just died and the plot moves forward. I’d love to talk about this with people who have read the book, though I feel like this character has to die because of the way that the author has written the series. Urgh it’s hard to write this without spoiling it.
But as far as deaths go, this death is stupid. At least make it clear why the character died. Make it worth something.

Character Development
                What struck me in the first installment, Wither, was the character development and the wide away of cast members. Here are my brief thoughts: 

                With the end of Fever, I had such high hopes for Linden. The truth-about how brides are Gathered, what Vaughn does with dead bodies, everything- would finally come out!
                And Linden is the biggest tool, ever.
                It killed me inside when he denies everything. And this isn’t too much of a spoiler, as it happens at the beginning of the story. And the story would be much different if Linden believed Rhine.
But my emotional agony kept me emotionally invested in the story. And it pays off. Linden has spectacular character growth that I rarely see. What DeStefano did with the character is amazing, and a true testament to her ability to write.
Though there is a constant tugging of affection between Linden, Cecily, and Rhine that I disliked. With everything that has happened, it would be excessively unhealthy for Rhine to actually love Linden (not that I’m particularly convinced that Rhine loves Gabrielle). It is very frustrating that the author keeps hinting that Rhine actually loves Linden.

                As hinted at in the second book, the baby grows up.
                In some ways she stays the same, which is something that I liked. A character, much like a real person, does not completely change, no matter how much personal growth they experience. She grows up and matures in ways that are suitable to her environment, and she still displays hints of her spoiled tendencies. I like her much better now than her bratty incarnation that we are introduced to in Wither. 

                Not sure if I can count this as character development. I think that the reader FINALLY gets the whole picture in the last installment of the series. We finally get the rationale, the truth, that has propelled this whole story into action.
                Even with his explanation, he is a typical evil villain who tries to explain away his motives for the greater good, though.

                Before I start, I like Rose. I liked her in Wither and Fever, which is an interesting feat for a character who died in the first portion of the first book. More information is revealed about her lineage in Sever, but I feel like it was so forced. Like the author looked at the grand scheme of the book and realized that she could insert Rose in yet another slot and twist up the story more. The revelations about Rose in this book just made me go “Meh, whatever.” 

Plot Holes? Spoilers!
                It’s hard to discuss this without major spoilers. This book explains that cell phones and radios barely work because of the equipment like signal towers not being maintained. There are communication issues. Ok. And like in basically every dystopia, the government is a bunch of liars. Ok. But…
                How does Hawaii not know about the virus? Sure, the American government can lie to their citizens, but how does Hawaii not have a clue?
How does Rhine’s and Rowan’s condition cure everyone if they are so unique?
                If everyone knows about Rowan and what he is about to blow up, why aren’t the police there to stop him?  
                Why doesn’t Rhine go about trying to find out if Gabriel is safe? Linden is right there, ask him.  

I know some readers will hate the final chunk of pages. I loved it. It reminded me of the ending of Alice: Madness Returns.  
I don’t want to give it all away. It has a quietness that I feel is so fitting. The chaos that has been inflicted is ended simply, suddenly, like the crumbling away of a cliff, and it leads to a sudden end.   
There are still some questions lingering in my mind. I am not entirely sure I get the concept of the chemical garden. I can take some stabs at it because I’m told I’m excessively clever, but I was hoping that it would be explained fully. I hoped that the concept would blow my mind and make me lose my vision for a second because it is so radical. Perhaps I don’t feel like I get it because the chemical gardens are only mentioned a few times.

                The Chemical Garden series is a fine dystopia for young adults. The writing is detailed, the world is altered yet believable, and the characters are well-rounded with motivations and develop naturally. I highly recommend it for mature teens who need a book with more than the typical fashion and love themes. It is a suitable gateway into adult literature, especially for the dystopian genre. There are some plot holes that I think adults who are analyzing the book will pick up on. But the world is immersive, and now that I have finished the series, I’m going to wallow in self-pity.


  1. Perhaps I don't get it since I haven't read the previous books, but the plot's a bit hard to follow. However, it sounds like the characters were the most important thing in the novel, and you did a very good job of explaining how they developed and the series and the boo progressed. Very good review. :-)

  2. Sorry. *blush*
    ...AS the series and the BOOK progressed.

    (I'm up too late and my brain is asleep. :P )

    1. Trying to review the 2nd and 3rd book was difficult because I try not to include spoilers that will ruin the experience for the readers who haven't read the books. But I highly recommend the series, and yes, the characters were by far my favourite part.