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About the Book
Title: Sever (The Chemical Garden #3)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Edition: UK paperback
Release date: February 2013
Genre: YA dystopian
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.
Sever is the final book in The Chemical Garden trilogy. I read it quite a long time after reading the second book, Fever, and I’d forgotten a lot of what happened. However, it didn’t take me long to get back into DeStefano’s intriguing dystopian world and I thought it was much better than Fever, which I recall struggling through.
The main thing I enjoyed about Sever was the memorable characters. Linden’s uncle Reed is a great addition whom I found both funny and heartwarming. Linden himself is finally beginning to wake up and realise that his father is not the great man he pretends to be and he starts to exercise his autonomy for the first time in his life, which is refreshing. Vaughan is as sinister as ever, but we get to hear a little about his backstory which explains his obsession with finding the cure and helps us to understand his reasons, even if we don’t agree with them. We also see a more vulnerable side to the villain of Fever, Madame.
I found it easy to relate to Rhine. She has grown a lot since the first book after everything she has been through. She has a strong moral compass and cares deeply for others. I loved the sisterly relationship between her and Cecily. Cecily was a character I disliked to begin with but she really comes into her own in this novel. I enjoyed her journey from the shallow, naive child she was in the first book to the strong woman she becomes in the third book, who will do anything to protect her family.
DeStefano puts her characters through some of the worst situations that you can imagine. They are bruised and scarred, yet they come back fighting again and again. Certain parts of the plot were somewhat predictable as they had been heavily foreshadowed from the beginning, yet they were still very hard-hitting and emotionally devastating. There was one particular twist that I didn’t see coming, and it was heartbreaking to read, especially because of the timing. I was like “Why? Why now?” But that made it seem more real, somehow. Life is full of unexpected blows like that, single moments and simple choices that change everything.
My main disappointment with Sever was that Rhine’s main love interest, Gabriel, barely features in the book at all. I’m not even a huge fan of romance, but after so much build-up of chemistry and affection between these two, I was hoping for some emotional payoff.
I was also disappointed with how little we see of Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. They had been apart for so long and I was so looking forward to an emotional reunion, but it didn’t happen the way I expected and I didn’t find Rowan all that likeable, honestly. It also frustrated me that Rhine didn’t tell him everything that Vaughan had done straight away.
Another criticism I have is that the science of the virus and a potential cure weren’t really explained convincingly. There is a vague summary given, but the ‘how’ isn’t outlined in any detail, so you have to suspend your disbelief a little.
The plot was quite slow at the beginning, with the main action kicking off half-way through. The climax played out as I hoped it would, and I found it very satisfying, although it felt a little rushed. Then the closing chapters wrapped up most of the loose threads, but still left something to the imagination.
Overall, despite some weaknesses, I found Sever to be a satisfying ending to The Chemical Garden series. I would recommend the trilogy to any dystopian fans, but particularly to those who enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale (book or TV series) which covers similar themes. It probably goes without saying that this book is very intense and you should probably avoid it if you have any particular triggers.
“We’ll squeeze every second that we can from our lives, because we’re young, and we have plenty of years to grow. We’ll grow until we’re braver. We’ll grow until our bones ache and our skin wrinkles and our hair goes white, and until our hearts decide, at last, that it’s time to stop.”
“There’s a limit to how much living can be done in a life without freedom.”
“Childhood is a long, long road, from which that dark whispering forest of death seems an impossible destination.”
Before you go…
Have you read Sever? Did you enjoy it?