by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden #3
Published: 12 February 2013
Simon & Schuster BFYR, Hardcover, 371 pages
WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST 2 BOOKS.
Time is running out for Rhine in this conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.
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.
I’ll start by sharing my truthful thoughts before reading Sever. I didn’t expect it to be good after reading Fever, the second installment, and seeing some less-than-pleasing reviews on Goodreads. However, I could not have been more wrong. Sever was breathtakingly deep, tragic and beautiful. Kind of makes me think of Taylor Swift’s song Sad, Beautiful, Tragic. Check out the song at the bottom of this review. Anyway, Sever definitely surpassed my expectations and blew me away with its lyrical words and meaningfulness.
Imagine living in a world where females died at 20 and males died at 25, I would have less than 4 years left to live. Scary, isn’t it? This seemingly hopeless world is one you have to keep in mind while reading The Chemical Garden trilogy. Regretfully, I didn’t didn’t keep that in mind when reading Fever, which might be why I did not enjoy it as much. However, with Sever, I did and was able to really experience the book. Rhine is running out on time and the past year of her life had been far from ideal. Though an ideal life probably didn’t exist in her world.
The events back in both Wither and Fever had forced every character in the trilogy to grow and mature. Rhine had been kidnapped, married off to a stranger, shared her husband with 3 sister wives (2 of which had died), escaped with Gabriel from her evil father-in-law, got drugged by a delusional lady who runs a scarlet district, escaped with Gabriel again, caught by Vaughn again, experimented on for months then was finally saved by Cecily and Linden. That’s quite a lot for a 16/17-year-old to go through and Rhine sure did not make it out of that wreck scar-free.
Although the book started out really slow, it was effective in showing Rhine & Linden’s complicated relationship. Not much happened at first apart from scenes which warms the reader up to the characters again. One character I (surprisingly) became fond of was Cecily. I literally despised her in Wither but the past events had changed her so much. She was no longer Vaughn’s little puppy, overly eager to please him and everyone else. Instead, she was capable of making her own decisions yet retained her normally chirpy self. It was also amazing to see Linden finally appreciating Cecily, the only one of his wives left who truly loved him.
Despite the slow start, once the shocking events start to happen, they don’t stop. I won’t mention much on said events as I believe you would want to go in blind. However, I’ll never ever see airplanes the same way after one of these events. Sometimes, the people we least expect to lose would be lost and we won’t realise how much of a rock they were for us to rely on, the one seemingly stable figure in our life, until we lose them. That’s all I’ll say on that airplane incident.
Through the second half of the book, I found myself frequently yelling to no one in particular, “OH MY. IT’S ALL CONNECTED. CONNECTED, I’M TELLING YOU.” And yes, it was not pretty. But in Sever, we’ll finally understand why the name of the trilogy was The Chemical Garden and why Rowan seemed all evil terrorist-like at the end of Fever. Although I expected the book to get me all dazed and dreamy (like the first 2 did), I felt perfectly clear-minded all through it. That was what made me realise Lauren DeStefano is one helluva writer. In Wither, Rhine’s time at the Ashbys’ mansion seemed like a dream in the world she was used to, hence the dreamy vibes I got. While in Fever, Rhine was so drugged up she admitted in Sever that it was hard to remember the events between her first and second escape from Vaughn, hence, the delirious vibes. Therefore, the crazy dazed feeling evoked after reading the first 2 books really just boosted the whole atmosphere.
Some minor things that ticked me off a little was the inactivity at the start of Sever and the fact that I wished there was more Gabriel in it. However, they weren’t very upsetting after I thought about it properly that the start contributed to the build up of the characters’ relationships and this story is Rhine’s story. Not Rhine and Linden or Rhine and Gabriel. It proved that the book did not need a prominent love angle to be interesting. Because one pretty accurate way to judge a book is by taking away the love angle (if there’s one) and analyzing the story without it. One more thing, concerning the lack of world building many reviewers have complained about, I feel it was not a big issue because this trilogy was more character and emotion based, which was why it did not really bother me. However, you would actually see more of the world in Sever.
Sever has taught me so much about humanity, hope, tragedy and the appreciation of life. I felt a little bad that I’m wishing for immortality when the people in The Chemical Garden trilogy world only wanted our normal lifespan now. I strongly recommend this trilogy to those who appreciate emotion based books more than action-packed ones. This lyrical read would blow you away with its amazing quotes and message. It would be best to read this when you aren’t busy and have time to just sit down with a cup of tea and fully enjoy the essence of this incredible book.
P.S. Here’s the song!