Fever Lauren Destefano
341 pages, Hardcover
Series: The Chemical Garden TrilogySummary (from GoodReads):
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.
What the HAIL? This book was a total disaster! I think the only reason I finished it was because I so confused I didn't know to stop reading. The different sections were disconnected. There was almost zero world building, and it made no sense. I read the first book Wither last summer (when I wasn't blogging) and I gave it 4 stars. I know that I am much less critical of books when I'm not thinking about what I'm going to write about them later, but I definitely do not remember thinking Wither was this bad. I remember thinking that there were some inconsistencies in the world. For one, if people are so desperate to round up women to get them pregnant, why would they have shot all the extra girls? Whatever redeeming qualities there were in Wither, that made me give it 4 stars definitely do not exist in this one. I don't think I can cover everything about this book that was just not right...I'd be here all day, but here are some of the highlights (and spoilers):
Right after their escape Rhine and Gabriel are imprisoned by a red-light district Madame--a total stereotypical caricature who speaks in revolving Russian and French accents. For about the first half of the book, Madame keeps Rhine and Gabriel in an opiate (and apparently aphrodisiac) haze. Bizarrely, Stefano protects Rhine from straight up prostitution (which would have at least been believable) and instead has Rhine and Gabriel "perform" in an open air bird cage for customers. I think they go all the way. It's implied, but not described (thankfully) so it's unclear exactly what they are doing. On top of that, there's a malformed child that only crawls and can't speak (but is apparently intelligent--I suppose we are supposed to somehow identify her?) I've yet to figure out why she is in the book.
Spoiler alert, they finally escape, right when Vaughn (the original villain) finds them. I still cannot figure out the point behind the interlude at Madame's. Rhine shows none of the desire to leave that she did at Vaughn's, despite being forced into sexual acts (which she never was at Vaughn's) and knowing that Gabriel was being forced to take drugs.
They do finally escape, right as Vaughn shows up (how convenient). They stop at a restaurant where the owners end up being psychopaths. The woman--like apparently all first-gen women in this series--so overcome with the loss of her own child, creepily acts as if the crippled girl is her own child. And the man--like all men in this series--is for some reason only interested in Rhine for sex and tries to rape her. Apparently, gentlemen, in times of hardship, your base instinct is to treat all women as if they are plastic sex dolls. I'm not sure if DeStefano was trying to make a point here about the objectification of women or definitions of rape--but all she ends up doing is normalizing rape within this world. Girls are only good for two things in this world---sex and pregnancy. There's no explanation, no discussion of why this is or why it is wrong. In fact, DeStefano ends up telling us that some forms of rape are ok in comparison to others. Linden "loves" his wives, and he had an "understanding" with at least one of them, so therefore having sex with them is fine. Cecily WANTS to become pregnant, even though she is only about 12. While on the run, Rhine actually misses Linden. That situation only seems wrong because we know that Vaughn is behind the wheel with nefarious plans. With Madame, Rhine avoids straight up prostitution by agreeing to perform with Gabriel--but HELLO she is still being forced and drugged. Yes, Rhine does it partly to protect Gabriel, but that is STILL rape (or sexual assault? see confusion above). It's only when Rhine is physically forced, like by the restaurant owner, that it is truly rape and therefore something that traumatizes her. Of course, in that situation, she is conveniently saved by Gabriel who just "felt" that something was wrong with that guy. So the true rape, the true horror, is never even played out.
I had so many feminist issues with this book that I need to stop there. It is just too much. I seriously think DeStefano needs to take a women's studies course. And a political science or economics course. This leads me to my final thought. Attention authors: If you don't understand that building a dystopian world requires some political or economic knowledge and insight into OUR own world then you shouldn't be writing dystopian lit. Bottom line. The world in this series makes no sense. There is mention of the president, who is now just a figurehead and whose position is inherited. Um ok...so how did that happen? And what is the point? What does that bit of information add to Rhine's story? There's apparently some conflict between scientists and naturalists--those who think they should try to fix the virus and those who think (apparently) that the human race should just be able to die out. This conflict seems to be an afterthought until the "cliffhanger" at the end of the book. And I would say, I saw that coming, if the scientists vs. naturalists conflict had appeared sooner than right near the end of the book.
Stefano implies that Rhine and Rowan have some quality (as they were probably one of their parent's many experiments) that will solve the virus problem. Actually, it's laid on pretty thick, from their eyes, the revealed conversations between Julia and Gabriel, Vaughn's obsession with her...But we are given nothing to lead us further into why she is different. This is a problem I have with a lot series books. You don't have wait and reveal everything at the end. Give us more information when it makes sense in the story. Don't just hint at it, give it to us. That way it won't be a surprise that either makes no sense or just pisses me off.
Honestly, I will probably read the last one when it comes out. Mainly because it is a trainwreck that I cannot look away from. This book reads like a "what no to do" for dystopian authors.