Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Wither + Fever (The Chemical Garden #1 and #2) - Lauren DeStefano [Review]

This review contains spoilers.

The Chemical Garden Series:

Wither (#1) + Fever (#2) by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Release Date: March 22nd 2011
Pages: 358
Rating: ★★★★☆

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: The Chemical Garden #2
Release Date: February 21st 2012
Pages: 341
Rating: ★★☆☆

Synopsis of the books:

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?


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.


I liked the concept of the Chemical Garden series. Humanity is its own victim of their search to create the perfect human being. No woman lives after 20 and no man after 25. This in combination with floodings and world wars is the perfect base of a dystopian books.

Wither starts with protagonist Rhine being captured and sold into a polygamous marriage.
It does not seem so bad at first; her husband Linden loves her and her sister wives are kind.
Then she discovers her father-in-law Vaughn does all kind of crazy experiments and possibly want her to be his next lab rat. Linden does not know anything about this. Together with Gabriel, a servant in the house, who she falls in love with, she tries to escape.

I liked the characters in this book. I really loved the relationship between the sister wives. Cecily was quite naive, but she was still very kind and Jenna was the one Rhine could identify most with, they both never wanted the marriage. 
I did not know what to think of Linden. On the one hand he was very kind, but on the other hand he did force 3 women to marry him and he impregnated a 13-year-old (sick!).
Vaughn was just plain creepy, although I did understand he just wanted to find a cure, he only went too far for it.
Rhine was a well-written, strong character. She kept herself standing and played along with the whole marriage thing only so she could escape in the end. 
I do not have much to say about Gabriel. He seems like a nice guy, but no special things there.

The whole book was very well-written, especially Rhine's struggle between staying or escaping. On the one hand she does not want to leave her sister wives, but on the other she is very afraid of Vaughn. I would have liked to know more about the dystopian society, we only learn about the early dying humans, nothing about the rest of the world which is supposedly destroyed or flooded.

Fever starts with Rhine and Gabriel escaping the mansion. They are taken prisoner when they accidently enter a brothel. They get to know Aster, who works there and her daughter Dolly. With Aster's help they escape together with Dolly and they make their way to New York, where Rhine's twin brother Rowan supposedly lives. When he's not there, they go to an orphanage and it turns out the owner is Aster's mother. While they stay there Rhine gets sick and when Vaughn shows up to cure her she goes with him. The book ends with Rhine once more imprisoned in the mansion.

I liked this book less than Wither. While Wither had quite an interesting storyline, nothing significant really happened in Fever. And what did happen seemed to be rushed, told without much detail. The whole part in the brothel did nothing for the story, apart from meeting Aster. While they were in New York they never found Rowan. I liked that they met Aster's mother, but then Rhine got sick and nothing happened anymore. I was quite confused when Rhine went with Vaughn. She finally escaped his grasp and then she would just give up and leave everything and go with him? When she was in the mansion again, I liked hearing from the character of Cecily again, she was great in Wither. Linden I found quite annoying again, he still loved Rhine but did not believe her about Vaughn.

The relationship between Rhine and Gabriel did not seem to have developed. The first half of the book Gabriel was on a sort of drug given to him in the brothel and in the second half Rhine was sick. This was a bit of a wasted chance, I would have liked to see some depth there.

The book was still well-written, but it just felt as a sort of bridge between Wither and the third book. And since Rhine's goal during the whole first book was to escape and at the end of book 2 she is imprisoned again, nothing seemed to have changed. This is quite disappointing.
I hope the third book is as good as Wither again.

I could still recommend the series The Chemical Garden. The dystopian concept is great and both books are well-written. Only the story of Fever is less interesting than Wither.

Wither: 4 out of 5 stars

Fever: 2 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. Jammer he dat het tweede deel van de serie veel minder goed was dan het eerste deel. Nadat ik Verwelken had gelezen wilde ik heel graag direct doorgaan met Vrees. Maar die viel me eigenlijk vies tegen. Het derde deel maakte het misschien nog enigszins goed, maar was toch minder sterk dan gehoopt. Heb er op mijn blog ook recensies over geschreven, mocht je het leuk vinden om te lezen. http://bibiesboeken.blogspot.nl/2013/08/vrees.html


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