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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: February 12, 2013
Pages: 371
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 3 Stars

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.
Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

This review is spoiler-free

In short: Fever was disappointing in that it was lacking a bit in plot, character development, and believability, but I still cannot help but be swept away by Lauren DeStefano's beautiful prose.
I loved Wither when I read it in 2011; it was a darkly atmospheric and beautifully described dystopian and I loved the enigma of the mansion. Fever was a rougher read for me as I felt it had lost a lot of the intrigue that had carried Wither. I had my suspicions that I would feel the same way about Sever as I did Fever, but as I am not someone who ditches series lightly, I felt committed to seeing the series through. Unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed: like Fever, a significant portion of Sever felt disappointingly aimless and pointless and this nothingness in the plot killed any tension. There were a number of twists introduced and I appreciate the effort to add interest, but unfortunately, they all seemed forced and predictable due to heavy foreshadowing.

I am left disappointingly unimpressed by Rhine's character and her romance with Gabriel - they are just SO bland. I was also incredibly frustrated with Rhine's questionable decisions and her inaction for much of Sever. Opportunities came her way to say something, do something, and make a difference, but she seemed to just let them all pass her by. My main interest actually lies with the secondary characters of Sever: the fiery Cecily, the clueless but sweet Linden, and the cunning and villainous Vaughn are all infinitely more intriguing to me than Rhine and Gabriel.

One of my biggest offenses with The Chemical Garden Trilogy lies with the world building and premise of the disease. That is, it makes no sense. I found myself questioning how realistic it was after each new piece of information was revealed. The bio major in me was pretty frustrated at the silly and flat out inaccurate explanations presented about the disease. It was very apparent to me that Lauren DeStefano knows next to nothing about immunology and epidemiology and made no efforts to understand it. This likely won't bother most readers, but as someone with a heavy science background, the lack of scientific accuracy was a major problem for me.

The one real saving grave of Sever - as well as for Fever - is Lauren DeStefano's writing. She has a real talent for sculpturing this dark and dreary atmosphere that makes you feel like you are drowning in the gloominess. And yet, she somehow is able to find beauty within the terribleness and it's so absorbing that it's hard not to to get sucked in and swept away by it. So overall, I was pretty disappointed with the lack of plot, character development, and believability of the premise in Sever, but could at least still appreciate Lauren DeStefano's beautiful prose. Though I was frustrated at the unrealistic science, I do think the ending felt "right" for the story and it was satisfactory overall.

Previously, my reviews of Wither and Fever.

Other Reviews:
Avery's Book Nook
Just Another Story
YA Booklover Blog

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  1. Sorry to hear this (and Fever) wasn't what you expected. I never got into this series - probably because of the Dystopia element and because I don't like the covers, lol - but I'm kind of glad since the biology major in me is very, very annoying when it comes to inaccurate bio/health/chem stuff in books.

    Anyway, I'm glad you were still able to enjoy the prose, there are some authors that just pull you in and envelop you with the words, aren't there?

  2. DeStefano's writing is definitely what pulls me into these story, so I'm definitely going to give this one a read soon! Sorry to hear you were disappointed with the love story, Rhine, and the world building, though. I've enjoyed the series so far (it's such a gritty read, I'm not sure "enjoy" is really the right word for it) so I'll have to read Sever to see what I think.

  3. I guess, in a way, this is like Crossed by Ally Condie: beautiful writing, but seriously lacking in terms of plot and pacing. The desease sounds unbelievable and just silly. If I were a biology major like you, I'd probably be upset just as the linguist in me gets upset when someone messes with the language. :)
    I doubt this would be a good choice for me, but I was surprised by Ally Condie so perhaps I'd be surprised by DeStefano too.
    Lovely review, Aylee!

  4. As someone who works in the field, I really doubt that I'll be able to brush away the inaccuracies of the scientific world-building. I can understand why that bothered you! I'm glad the writing managed to impress you still, but it sounds like the rest was pretty disappointing. Unlike yourself, I can ditch series midway really easily. I have little interest in continuing this one now, especially after all the mixed reviews for Sever. Great review, Aylee!

  5. Hmm 3 stars? Boo to that. I haven't read the first two books in this series but I have them so I just skimmed your review. It seems like these ones are really hit or miss, some people love them and some people hate them. But it seems like this series is going downhill for you, fabulous review Aylee!

  6. I'm definitely one of those people who the lack of accuracy with regard to immunology and what not would have no effect on because I'm definitely science-challenged. So not my forte:) I haven't read past the first book mostly because the reviews have been so lackluster for both books, and I think I'm content to just have Rhine's story stop where it did after book one for me. I'll imagine they got away and had an epic HEA and leave it at that:) Thanks for your thoughts Aylee!

  7. I thought Fever was disappointing compared to the first book as well! I'm sad that the final instalment wasn't all that great either, because everyone has been gushing about it, and I was looking forward to DeStefano redeeming her series. Eh, even in Fever Rhine and Gabriel were beginning to take the backseat for me - I much preferred reading about Vaughn and Linden - and I'm probably the only one who thinks Rhine would be better off with her husband! (Seriously, Gabriel is boring.) It's disappointing that the world building doesn't improve much in Sever, too. But I agree that DeStefano does have the talent to bring out the bleakness in a story.

    Thanks for the wonderful and honest review, Aylee!

  8. I've found this whole series kind of disappointing so I've been putting off reading Sever. I'm just not a big fan of Rhine or the plot in general. But like you, I don't like just abandoning series. Especially with only one book left.

  9. That's a bummer that this series seemed to fall flat after the first one. I guess some books are best when kept at one over-arching story instead of trying to drag it out too long. At any rate, that's good about the writing. Maybe her next book will be better!

  10. I was swept up in this series too. Sorry it fell short of what you were hoping, and it did for me in some ways too.

  11. Lauren DeStefano IS a good writer, but I was disappointed with everything PAST Wither. The disease didn't make sense and I felt like the story just dragged from book 2 onward. I'd still be interested to see what she releases in the future, but I may only get them from the library.

    Great, honest review, Aylee!

  12. Well, shoot! I ADORED Wither, it was one of my favorite YA Debuts the year it was published (2011). Then, when Fever came out I read reviews and they weren't very favorable. Now after reading you Sever review, I'm not sure I will be pushing to finish this series anytime soon. Unless of course Amazon offers up some bargain prices, then I usually can be more enticed to buy. Thanks for the honest review. I always enjoy reading about what works and what doesn't in books. You always seem to do a nice job with that aspect.

  13. I probably would have been turned off by the cover! (What do you mean I'm shallow?!). I think I should try Wither and decide, but I'm really glad there's beautiful writing. I just HATE it when there's a brilliant story there and it's ruined by the way it's told...but at least good writing can sort of cover for it. Speaking of good writing. I must read Ally Condie...

  14. I haven't read this series and I don't think I will so I was curious to read your review! This series seems to be a hit-or-miss series all over...and like you, I don't give-up series lightly so investing the time needed just isn't appealing right now. I am tempted to check it out eventually because of your comments on Lauren DeStephano's writing style. Your feelings & overall review remind me of how we both felt upon finished the Matched series though :( I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one more - it sucks when series end this way. I really appreciated your review though!

  15. I haven't read this series, but it seems that there are so many different and varying opinions abut it, that it's always intrigued me....

  16. "It was very apparent to me that Lauren DeStefano knows next to nothing about immunology and epidemiology and made no efforts to understand it." Uh oh, this wouldn't make me happy. I actually still haven't read this series, Aylee, and don't think I will because I'm not a big dystopian fan, especially slow ones. But the covers of this series are so pretty!

  17. I haven't read this finale yet and I'm definitely nervous to. Anxious to discover what I'll think though because I really do love this series. Thanks for sharing!

  18. I have been putting this book off for so long because I just haven't been a fan of the series. The romance between Rhine and Gabriel was a major turn off, but I've invested time into this series I do want to see how everything ends. I will eventually get to it *crosses fingers*

  19. I still haven't read this because I know I'm going to be disappointed and I can't take it after Fever. I do love Lauren's writing but sometimes I question this world too much to become absorbed in it. It sucks that there are so many inaccuracies too! I'm no bio expert by any means, but I defer to your expertise. Glad this wasn't a total bust for you, though did still seem to disappoint. In any case, great review—thanks for your honesty!

  20. Oh boy- I remember reading this review- but I think I read it in class and couldn't comment on it. I am with you about this one being the weaker of the books. I am not a science buff but I definitely felt like the whole virus aspect was weak. The inaction at the beginning was also confusing- but I liked Reid and as you said, the writing was beautiful. Hopefully her next series will be better.

  21. Wow! This review is like the exact opposite of some other reviews I've read! Great to see someone else's opinions. Can't wait to read and form my own :). Great review!

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