I never did review Book 1 of the Chemical Garden Trilogy, Wither, because I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. I’m finding the same is true of Book 2, Fever. I finished it last night, and while I already have the concluding volume in my hands, I don’t feel passionately about the series one way or another. Minor spoilers to follow.
Fever follows Rhine’s journey after she flees the mansion and emotionally complex relationship with her husband. As she tries to make her way back to Manhattan to reunite with her brother, she encounters all manner of morally defunct personalities. The book seems to be one struggle after another for Rhine as she constantly battles people who want to own her and use her to turn a profit. It certainly helps set the tone for the book, but I felt a little bit lost in the plot. Everything was easy to understand, but I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly she was trying to accomplish. She leaves her luxurious prison to find her brother, but then what? We know that there is obviously going to be more to the story than just “they live happily ever after until this bizarre virus kills them” so there was a lack of direction that plagued the entire book.
I also struggle to describe this story in the wider context of Young Adult fiction. It was both exactly what I expected it to be, and completely original. I liked that there were more adult elements to the story. Often I find that skipping over sex is a cop-out to make the story suitable for YA publishing, but this included prostitution, rape, and real relationships with other characters. Obviously I’m not arguing that these things have to be included for a story to be good, but we are supposed to believe that men die at 25 and women at 20, so to exclude sex when in all likelihood people would reach sexual maturity a lot earlier out of necessity, I’m glad DeStefano didn’t shy away from it.
I wouldn’t say anything in this series is ground-breaking, but I’m interested to see where the story goes next, and I’m hoping that the inevitable Book 2 slump is behind me and that Sever is a satisfying conclusion to Rhine’s journey.