Book Review: Sever by Lauren DeStefano

» 7 March, 2013 » Book Reviews » 18 comments

Book Review: Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Sever (Chemical Garden #3)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

2013 is a big year for the end of series. Many stories are drawing to a close, some that I’ve been with since the beginning. Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series was my first in quite a few ways. Wither was my first YA dystopia and the first YA book whose prose I really enjoyed. Fever was the first time I fully experienced second book syndrome, the first time I seriously considered a DNF. Sever is the first 2013 series finale I’ve read; I seriously hope it isn’t the best.

After the undeniable disaster that was Fever, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I knew that DeStefano was capable of writing well, but she’d disappointed me. A few chapters into this, I was relieved—no surreal acid trips or carnival brothels were in sight. Rhine’s narration made sense, the prose wasn’t too florid, and it looked like things were going places. But they didn’t. 5 chapters passed, then 10, then 15. Nothing happened.

The lack of…well, anything was the worst part of Sever. Over half the book consists of Rhine thinking deep thoughts, convincing Linden that his dad is a bad man, and dreaming of saving her brother. That’s 200+ pages of boring tediousness. I constantly asked myself where the plot was. Character-focused writing is one thing; aimless rambling toward an unspecified goal is another. Once again, I really have to wonder how Lauren DeStefano got away with publishing this. Sever is better than Fever, but not by much.

The was a slight improvement in characterization, though. Rather than being pieces of cardboard that DeStefano pushed around, I felt that Rhine and her companions actually had substance, more or less. Still not the most brilliant characterization I’ve encountered, but better than nothing. The love triangle (or whatever it is) was more or less handled well, though there wasn’t much conflict since Gabriel is off-stage for all but the last two or three chapters. I’m still not entirely sure what Rhine saw in either Linden or Gabriel, but since there were no declarations of undying love or other ridiculousness, I honestly don’t care.

Obviously, though, the big issue with any dystopian setting is whether or not the world’s problems are resolved. In Sever, I think they were, though certainly not to my satisfaction. DeStefano’s blatant anti-intellectualism and message that “science is evil” made multiple info-dumping conversations necessary for anything to work. Really, you can’t spend two books saying that technology and science are the worst things ever only to rely on them in the end so your characters can be saved. I call foul on that.

If you’re looking for answers to the Chemical Garden series’ shoddy world-building or suspicious anti-science themes, don’t expect to get much satisfaction from Sever. Yes, answers are provided, but not enough, and they came much too late in the game. This book was a decent conclusion to a trilogy that left me in a constant state of internal conflict. If you were able to drag yourself through Fever, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give Sever a go.

For myself, I’m okay with how things ended up. I’ll most likely check out DeStefano’s new books as well—but I certainly won’t be buying the entire series in hardback!

Renae writes book reviews for Respiring Thoughts. Aside from reading and critical analysis, her interests include classic film, nail polish, dogs, hiking, feminism, and religion. She is currently attending school to attain her undergraduate degree in English; when not at college, she lives in the mountains of Colorado. Connect with Renae on Twitter and Goodreads.

18 Responses to “Book Review: Sever by Lauren DeStefano”

    • Renae M.

      Fever was seriously awful. I borrowed my friend’s ereader for that one and I was convinced she had a weird egalley with lots of errors or something. But I checked when I got my hardback and NOPE. It really was that awful. Ughhhh.

      The good news is, I still have the Beth Revis and Cynthia Hand series finales to read, and if they’re 2 stars as well, I might die.

        • Renae M.

          Uh oh! Well…I’m NOT a generous person so hmm. (To be honest I’m kind of dreading the process of reading it. I’ve been waiting so long my expectations are really skewed.)

  1. Jasprit

    I’m sorry this series was a bit of a flop for you Renae, I have quite a few series coming to an end this year too, and it can be sad to say goodbye to such a fantastic bunch of characters, but some of the issues you had with Fever and now Sever too, I bet you’re glad that it’s finally over. I had been considering giving Wither a try for sometime, but now I think I shall out it off for a little while longer! Lovely review Renae, I hope your other series which are about to come to an end are much more enjoyable! :)
    Jasprit recently posted…Blog Tour: Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally.My Profile

    • Renae M.

      Thanks, Jasprit!

      I actually did enjoy Wither quite a bit, though it’s pretty obviously inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. In general, I think this is an interesting series and probably worth reading, but maybe not top-priority status.

  2. Lauren Elizabeth

    I haven’t read Sever yet, so I skimmed your review, but I’m not excited to hear that it’s so tedious, and only slightly better than Fever which was kind of a hot mess. Sigh…. Maybe that’s why I’ve been putting this one off. I’m very excited to read her next series, but I think this one is going to end up a disappointment for me. I wish I had the strength to just abandon it, but I’ll probably read it in the end.
    Lauren Elizabeth recently posted…Book Review: Bruised by Sarah SkiltonMy Profile

    • Renae M.

      Fever was pretty bad, not going to lie. But while Sever wasn’t the best book ever, I think it was worth reading, and I’m mostly satisfied with the conclusion. I think it fit what came before quite nicely.

  3. Kelly

    Really, you can’t spend two books saying that technology and science are the worst things ever only to rely on them in the end so your characters can be saved. I call foul on that.

    1 point to you, madame! Seems like you struggled with much of what I found lacking. That pacing was just atrocious. Who thought it would be a good idea to let absolutely nothing happen for the majority of the book? And by the time Gabriel’s name was mentioned, I had mostly forgotten he even existed. Oops.
    Kelly recently posted…Love Triangles & Fresh PerspectivesMy Profile

    • Renae M.

      The Gabriel bit was so weird! It’s kind of hard to feel like a romance is believable and long-lasting (or even care about the romance), if the couple spends maybe 3 pages together out of 400. Whatever.

      I’m glad I stuck it out to the end, though.

  4. Lee @ Rally the Readers

    This is one of the most conflict-inducing series I’ve ever read because on the one hand, I really liked the prose. On the other, the world -building and the scenarios Rhine found herself in (the carnival brothel being the most glaring example) were just preposterous to me. I managed to make it through the first two books, but I’m wimping out and skipping Sever. I can’t take hundreds of pages of Rhine just thinking about taking action instead of actually doing something, especially when it comes to finding that twin brother of hers. I hope you have much better luck with Boundless!
    Lee @ Rally the Readers recently posted…Review: Legacy of a Dreamer by Allie JeanMy Profile

    • Renae M.

      Well, even though this wasn’t my favorite book ever, I will say that I’m really glad I stuck it out to the end. The conclusion was rough but fit fairly well with the plot arc. I don’t know. If you’re really invested in this series, read this; if you’re only partially interested, probably skip it. Really depends, I guess.

  5. bookrockbetty

    ykes! i like the whole idea behind this series, but didn’t LOVE Fever… so it was already headed downhill in my opinion. After reading this…. my hopes for a good finale have been shattered! We’ll see…. I can’t NOT finish a series that I’m already invested in…. but man. I still need to read Requiem too… another that I heard was a crappy third book.

    • Renae M.

      Depending on why you weren’t a fan of Fever, it’s possible that you’ll like Sever a bit more. I did at least, but mostly because I was glad the series came to a logical and mostly well-rounded conclusion that was (more or less) satisfying.

      I was debating picking up Oliver’s Delirium series, but then the general dissatisfaction with Requiem made me pause. It’s not good when people say a book ruined the entire series for them!

      • bookrockbetty

        i’m pretty sure i just hate gabriel. he’s so weak as a love interest. i just got bored with that part of the plot. not that i love the idea of linden either.. i mean… come on… that’s pretty gross.

        i’m hoping i’m one of the few people that like requiem!!
        bookrockbetty recently posted…When More Becomes LessMy Profile

        • Renae M.

          I didn’t care much for Gabriel, either, especially in Fever, where he took on some seriously cardboard-like qualities. In Sever, I think Gabriel only has about 3 pages of on-stage time, which made Rhine’s romance with him EXTREMELY hard to sell, in my opinion. But at least there were no declarations of undying love and marriage proposals or whatever.

  6. Jaslyn

    I’ve read the whole chemical garden trilogy. It kept me reading every second and could not stop. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t like it. I understand it takes a while to get to certain events throughout the book but Lauren Destefano I really loved this series. I really loved the ending. Every moment of reading this book was joy. I give this a 5 star! Best book I’ve read yet. It’s amazing how the characters change throughout the whole series. Spectacular book. Keep it up. It appears that most of these negative reviewers weren’t the audience for this trilogy.

    • Renae M.

      It’s rather unfair to say that the only negative reviews from people weren’t from this books proper “audience”. Who IS this book’s audience? Teenage girls interested in pretty prose and strong female leads, who like science fiction? I can assure you that I AM that person. Sometimes people don’t like a book, and it isn’t THEIR fault because they’re not the “correct reader” as it were. You say you can’t understand why people wouldn’t like this book, and obviously it’s one of your favorites—that’s fine. But don’t invalidate others’ opinions by putting them in the wrong.

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