Friday, April 13, 2012

No Fevered Excitement Here

Fever (Chemical Garden)
Ah, the sad middle book. Just like the middle child, it suffers from identity crisis. Neither the attention grabbing first book or the long-awaited, cathartic conclusion, the middle book is bound by the desperation to live up to the first book without all the excitement of the final book. So, it makes sense that Lauren DeStefano's Fever would have a lot of work to do to make Wither fans happy. But could it pull itself out of the middle child lot in life?

Rhine and Gabriel ran for their lives, but the life they find outside the estate's walls where Rhine's husband, sister wife, and evil father-in-law live is not the freedom they imagined it would be. Almost immediately after escaping, they find themselves held captive again. This time, the captor might not be performing horrific experiments, but she isn't exactly warm and cuddly either. 

Sucked into a brothel where the girls are ranked according to color by their level of worth, Rhine finds herself trapped and Gabriel is being kept drugged so he can't help her. Lilac, another trapped girl, helps Rhine through this terrifying experience, and finds a way to get Rhine and Gabriel to safety outside the brothel's electrified walls, but she wants to come with them and she doesn't plan on leaving her blind, malformed daughter behind. Their escape brings them closer to finding Rhine's brother, but in a world where mother's don't grow old enough to see their children become adults, another mother is separated from her daughter. Is finding Rhine's brother Rowan worth everything she and Gabriel have suffered through.

Sadly, this book did not live up to Wither for me. I thought it was kind of forced with no real purpose and while the outcome was incredibly interesting, the almost 300 pages that came before it were bland and lost. The exploits of Rhine and Gabriel could have been exciting, but instead they rambled around in a drug and illness induced haze that just seemed unnecessary. I found myself hoping the book would end quickly so I could move on to something more interesting, but feeling obligated to stick with it out of love for the first book.

When all was said and done, I am glad I slogged through this book because the final 40 pages or so were reminiscent of the Wither I love. It was creepy and exciting and terrifying all at once, and I couldn't stop reading once I hit that point. Unfortunately, a struggling reader might never make it to that point. I am sad to see this series stray in the middle, but I am hopeful it will triumph in the end. So fingers crossed that the final book will live up to the first book and not be stained with the memory of the sad middle child!

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