Tag Archives: Wither

Sever (The Chemical Gardens #3) – Lauren DeStefano

 

Sever (The Chemical Gardens #3) – Lauren DeStefanoTitle: Sever (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Publishing Info: February 12, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 1, 2013
Related Posts: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1), Fever (The Chemical Garden #2)

    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.

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I admit it. I was nervous to start reading SEVER. I absolutely fell in love with the beautiful writing and the insane story line of WITHER when I first picked it up in June of last year and then quickly followed it up with FEVER…. and felt disappointed. FEVER just didn’t do it for me. Where I loved the first book, I felt removed from the whole original plot in the second and I just felt lost and isolated (which I guess is what Rhine was feeling too, but even still… I don’t think the readers should feel so lost).

In SEVER, I found comfort of being back in Florida and — however creepy it may be — back in Vaughn’s territory. What I loved about this book was that it ends exactly like it should. The readers get answers that have been questions from book one, and some are answers to issues we didn’t even know existed. One of the best parts was having something shocking revealed that was hidden ever since book one, and then I thought back on it and it totally made sense – I just never knew that idea even existed! There are some amazing twists in this book that had me shouting, gasping, and crying. It was a pretty emotional journey… (see below)

I loved that we got to spend more time with some of the original characters that we were missing in book two like Cecily and Linden, and their stories are woven back in with Rhine’s. There are also some great new characters, especially Reed (Linden’s uncle — don’t worry, no spoilers!) and we finally get to learn more about Rowan, who I’ve been curious about the entire book!

The biggest question for me whenever I finish a series is “How did it wrap up?”‘ and I think Lauren DeStefano did a great job of tying up loose ends and giving us a clear picture about what lies ahead for the characters we’ve all grown to love. The only thing I was still left wanting was just a bit more information about The Chemical Gardens. I feel like we were given an explanation, but I was hoping for a little more depth and origin of the name, especially since it’s the name of the whole series. Also, Gabriel is pretty absent the whole book (for a reason, but still). I just really wanted more Rhine-Gabriel interaction to kind of solidify their relationship to make that a little more concrete. Other than that, I was very satisfied with the ending. It kind of fit perfectly and I don’t see any other way it could have wrapped up.

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Rhine: Rhine’s determination has always felt real to me. Ever since she was first brought to the mansion, she’s had a spirit of independence and the need to break free and find her brother so it never felt forced that she was always inching towards her main goal. She kept the plot moving and I really felt like Lauren DeStefano kept her actions true to her character.
Linden: Linden really started to grow on me! Obviously he’s kind of a conundrum in WITHER because Rhine is forced to marry him without zero choice in the matter, but getting to know Linden in the books shows what a kind and gentle person he really is.
Cecily: Cecily has always been one of my favorite characters. She always felt like such a real person to me with such a natural range of emotions. She did a lot of growing up in SEVER and it was so interesting to see that character development. I’d say she’s the character who changed the most throughout the whole series and I loved watching that progression.
Vaughn: Still creepy. Still love how perfect of a villain he is. Still love to hate him.
Reed: Reed is Linden’s uncle, Vaughn’s brother. He’s a great addition to this story and another lively character. I think readers will love him, so I can’t wait to hear people’s reactions to him.

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Buy it!

I thought this was a really great finish to the series. I know some people had some mixed feelings but I really enjoyed it.

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     Wither (The Chemical Gardens #1)      Fever (The Chemical Gardens #2)

Discussion: From Appropriate to Taboo: Where to draw the line in YA

In the spirit of Banned Books Week (and the fact that my Top Ten Tuesday was horribly boring this week), I decided to stir the pot a bit with a discussion post. Here I want to ask the age old question: How far is too far when it comes to young adult novels?

You know what I’m talking about – the sex, the drugs, the drinking, the swearing. They all play a major part in our lives, obviously for some more than others, and despite the controversy, also in the lives of teenagers. I often wonder if I were to write a book, how would I feel on including these controversial subjects? Would I sensor myself in order to reach a wider audience and younger teens? Would I have a tell-it-like-it-is attitude and keep my novel gritty and heavy? Obviously this is going to vary from author to author and the reception of this will vary from reader to reader. Technically, there is no right or wrong answer on exactly what is appropriate for young adult readers and what is not, and I’m more so talking about the inclusion of these elements in general, not quite the severity of them (I think the majority of us can agree that graphic sex scenes, rampant cursing, and very heavy drug use is generally inappropriate for teen novels. This is meant as an interesting and fun discussion so please understand what I mean when I’m talking about what’s “appropriate” to include in YA).

Swearing: 
I don’t know about you guys, but I swore like a sailor as a teen (I guess I still do. Oops). A lot of times there are ways to avoid using curse words to make a book a little less harsh in language and a little more friendly to the younger teens (I’m not a parent, but I would venture to guess the parents would be happier about this too). The best example I have right now for this Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’m in the middle of the audiobook (gotta love Wil Wheaton’s narration…) and I’m actually quite surprised at not only the frequency but the selection of curse words throughout the book. Now it doesn’t bother me in the least – if anything, it enhances the story for me a bit because it makes it seem more real. With plenty of surprising moments, bouts of frustration and anger, etc, swearing not only seems appropriate but naturally how I would react in these situations too. I can easily see where people would say it’s too much an unnecessary. For my tastes, it really works with the story. Another thing to think about here is that the main character Wade is also eighteen. It’s not like this is a book where the main characters are on the younger side of adolescence. If they were thirteen, fourteen, fifteen year-olds, I’d actually say the cursing would be a bit excessive for what I’d like to read from that age group. Obviously this is all my personal opinion, but for me, it fits. The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to see that it really depends on the age range of the characters and the age range of the target audience that seems to be swaying me in either direction. Another example that comes to mind is Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne. Emmy has quite a different approach to swearing in her book: if ever it’s a “harsher” curse word, she actually censored the characters herself. Sometimes it was just “Screw you” or “you’re such a jerk” instead of the more crass language. A lot of the time, that actually took away from the story for me because it felt so unnatural. If I was that angered to the point of insulting someone and yelling, let’s face it. I’m not gonna use the word “jerk”. When the actual swear words were used, it was the bare bones of the swear and letting us fill in the rest of the letters to figure it out. From this method, I would guess that the target audience for Monument 14 may be a younger one and this would be a way to stretch the audience down to younger teens, even pre-teens considering we have characters that range from around 5 years old to 18; but then comes my issue with that balance. Throughout the book, we also have teen drinking (and a lot of it by the “cool” kids), nudity, sex, and violence (although the violence isn’t severe). So then I was left with the question, how subjective are one of these “taboos” to another? Personally I thought it was pointless to censor the swearing if we’re also reading about underage drinking, sex, and teenage fantasies. I thought those ranked a bit more severe on the taboo scale, but of course, that’s just another opinion. Which leads us to….

Sex:
Sex in high school was kind of a non-issue for me. I didn’t really have any relationships that lasted in high school so I was never really in that situation and I never had to think about it. I guess if I had to say how I felt about it back then, it was towards the negative side because I heard the negative stories: the wild parties, the teenage pregnancies, etc. So when I read YA books where the characters are sexually active or losing their virginity, I’m never quite sure what to make of it. Okay, here’s my confession: I was raised fairly conservatively and despite the mass amounts of movies and TV shows where sex is no big thing and everyone’s doing it in high school, it wasn’t like that for me. I grow a bit hesitant at the amount of young adult books I read with the same kind of situations. Is sex included because that’s the ultimate step to take as a teenager? That’s how you know the characters have finally committed to each other and fallen in love? I can see some books including it, but I’m afraid at just how many there are out there that all included a sex scene with their characters at 16, 17, or 18 years old. I don’t want to bring up books that may result in spoilers so I’ll try to use more familiar ones, like the Twilight series. I was crazy surprised that part of the main theme in Eclipse/Breaking Dawn is sex. Let’s be real: That’s the main reason Bella even marries Edward, right? Let’s get married so we can have sex? It didn’t seem like she really wanted to marry him otherwise (especially the way they portrayed it in the movie! I haven’t read the books in a while so that part is a little fuzzy). Am I right in saying that at least a little bit? And then Breaking Dawn happens and okay, so they’re married at this point, but the big moment finally happens and Bam! Immediate pregnancy. I guess that does really set up the plot for the rest of the book, but still. You just barely graduated high school, throwing away the college experience, begging to be a vampire just so you’re A) not older than your boyfriend by one year and B) so you can get it on. I don’t know. The more I think about it, the sillier it sounds. And don’t get me wrong – the Twilight series is still one of my favorites, but when I really stop to think about it, you can’t deny that sex shaped the entire second half of this series. Another series I loved but was still left with my jaw-dropped: The Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano. When I finished Wither, I was so excited to finish and really, really enjoyed the book, but at the same time, I was slightly appalled in a way. Whatever crazy mutation that this was that killed boys at 25 and girls at 20 (okay, what virus is really that specific and could really do that? – I overlooked it…) created a crazy teenage pregnancy break out. In order to keep the human race alive, there has to be teen pregnancy. Some of these girls are picked as young as they can so they can produce the most amount of babies for their teenage husbands, and poor little Cecily who is either 13 or 14 in Wither (I think maybe she turns 14 in the book?) is the first to get pregnant. And she’s excited for it. Wait, what? I mean, when I stop and think about it, I’m not sure how I ended up liking this book so much because how is that okay in any way? But again, this theme is something that shaped the entire plot of the whole series.
There are plenty of others of my favorites where the guy and the girl finally get together and then have sex. And sometimes, as much as I’ve loved the book, I just roll my eyes. Is sex always necessary to prove that this relationship is valid? For me, sometimes it’s the absence of sex that makes the book even better. I love the slow burn relationships and the sexual tension that pulls you along the whole story – and the characters don’t even have to hook up to make for a great ending – and sometimes I think that’s even better writing than having them jump in the sack together. Perfect example: I just finished Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and it instantly became one of my favorite books and one of my favorite literary relationships. No sexy times involved there (in the euphemistic sense…. because there were PLENTY of sexy moments between Anna and Etienne) and honestly, I think it was so great and perfect without the two of them hooking up.

Alcohol/Drugs: 
Another thing we can’t deny is part of the lives of teenagers is the presence of drugs and alcohol, although I’d say more often alcohol. I still frowned upon drugs pretty hard when I was in high school (again with the conservative upbringing), but I’d say by junior and senior year, the vast majority of kids were breaking into their parents liquor cabinets and having their older siblings buy them some booze. I’d say alcohol and some forms of drug use (I guess most commonly marijuana) are bound to slip their way into young adult fiction because they really are that present in so many people’s social circles. For me, I’d say their presence in YA books aren’t quite as controversial to me when it’s the “upperclassmen” (junior and senior aged high school kids) drinking and smoking pot. I think it’s fair to say that drug use more than marijuana isn’t commonly seen in YA lit (at least I can’t think of drug use like that in books that I’ve read – let me know if you have) due to the fact that once drugs like that are introduced into the story, I think the story immediately takes on a much more serious and controversial tone that aren’t necessarily relevant to the plot at hand. Alcohol, however, plays a much stronger role. It’s what makes the classic party scene and seems much less taboo to include. I was actually quite surprised to see such a strong presence of drugs and alcohol in one of my favorite books, Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins. The story goes that Anna is a nephilim of one of the Dukes (that is to say, a higher demon) and along with others that represent the Seven Deadly Sins, Anna’s father is the Duke of substance abuse. His job as a demon is to lure people into alcohol and drug abuse and Anna as the super-innocent Southern girl has never touched the stuff. So long story short, we see Anna get familiar with these substances, learn how to control them, and has the classic battle between good and evil and whether to lead these people astray or keep them clean. I actually found the plot line extremely interesting, but really, once we were talking about serious drugs and those drugs showed up on the scene (although not actively used by the characters), it still brought up a serious turn in the tone of the book for me. It was instantly transformed into something that was just a little bit darker and a little bit more for “maturer” audiences (for lack of a better word). In Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, the pot usage by Noah and his tight group of friends didn’t really seem that off-putting. It’s a lot more common to see that show up, even among teenage crowds. Not to say I’m always in favor of its presence in YA novels, but I think it’s much more acceptable – in a way – than any other drugs. Then as far as alcohol goes, I think that’s a very real part of teenage life, like it or not. Where I think it really starts to get taboo is the age of the alcohol drinker. Like I had mentioned earlier, the norm for the kids that I knew at that age  was drinking at 17 and 18 years old. I think if the drinkers in the story are younger than 17 (for me at least) it starts to cross a line a little more and begins to raise red flags   the younger the drinkers get. I think I start to feel uncomfortable when the main characters are under 17 and drinking. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my personal experience so I’m interested to see what other people have to say about that!

This turned into quite the long winded post so I’ll start to wrap it up. All of these situations are clearly my personal opinions – and really, that’s what makes all of these situations so touchy. Everyone has their own personal experiences that shape their reading experiences as well. What’s taboo for one person is on the fence for another and is crossing the line for the next. It’s really all on the perception of the reader. I’m sure my opinion (as a 20-something) on these topics can vary extremely from someone who is a parent and has children who are reading the same books, as well as varying quite a bit from the actual teen. Mostly I’m really interested to hear what you guys think! I know a lot of us are adults reading YA novels because they’re fun, there are so many great ones being published, and they’re so enjoyable. So here are my questions for you:

How do you feel about these topics?
How controversial do you find them?
If you’re a parent, how do these themes affect how you feel towards the books?
Would you tell your kids not to read any books because of these themes?
Do any one of these elements turn you off from a book just because of their 
presence? 

Let me know anything I missed, any opinions you want to throw at me, and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!!

TGIF – August 17, 2012

It’s time for TGIF again, thanks to Ginger at GReads!

So this week’s TGIF topic is:
Pimp Your Review: Feature a favorite book review you’ve written in the past that you feel deserves more love!

Okay, so here are a couple of my favorite reviews! In case you haven’t seen them, here’s your chance to fangirl with me 🙂

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins – Posted 8/6/12
Where She Went by Gayle Forman – Posted 6/26/12
Wither by Lauren DeStefano – Posted 6/1/12

Okay, I think that’ll do it for some of my favorite reviews. Hope you like ’em!

Fever (Chemical Garden #2) – Lauren DeStefano

Fever (Chemical Garden #2) – Lauren DeStefanoTitle: Fever (The Chemical Garden #2) by Lauren DeStefano
Publishing Info: February 21, 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Library
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 8, 2012
Related Posts: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1), Sever (The Chemical Garden #1)

    Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.
Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.
   The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion...by any means.

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I must admit that I really enjoyed the second half much more than the first. For some reason, I’m seeing an extremely common trend (although logical, it still somewhat irritates me) for dystopia sequels to take place in a completely different setting/world than the one in which we originally got to know our main characters (PANDEMONIUM, CROSSED, now FEVER). The first sections of Fever are spent predominately in Madame’s run-down and somewhat horrific prison of a carnival which Rhine and Gabriel cannot escape. I understand that since they’re on the run, they obviously will not have the same kind of setting as the mansion, but I think I was just frustrated how long that whole scenario took before we started moving on the journey again. I expected a lot more movement and running and I think it took a while for me to get really into it.

That being said, I still really enjoyed it! Once we got a little bit more involved in the story and we brought back some more ties between Rhine and the mansion, it really started to pick up for me! One thing I really liked about WITHER so much was the mystery behind Vaughn and what his “experiments” really did entail, why he was so interested in Rhine, etc — So once we started getting back to those questions, I got a lot more intrigued than just “we’re in a tight spot and we need to get out of here before we get trapped”. I think the intrigue is definitely what made me like WITHER so much so I was glad to see that come back towards the middle/end.

As for the romance, I loved seeing the budding relationship start between Rhine and Gabriel in the first book, but in Fever, they had so many obstacles to face and they really needed to be strong and brave more often than not, so we didn’t really get to see a lot of the romance develop. That being said, I actually wasn’t really disappointed by it… I was caught up in the action and the fight that was going on and I was okay with the romance being put on the back burner.

I’m not sure how I feel about the story of Lilac and Maddie being woven in with Rhine’s. Unless there’s more to it than that in the third book, I felt like it was maybe a little unnecessary. It was a nice story and all, but I didn’t feel like it had much relevance to pushing the story forward. I feel like I could have taken those characters out, and we could have focused more on Rhine and Gabriel and I would have been okay with that.

I just loved the end! Once again, Lauren DeStefano figured out how to hook me back in and violently flip through the pages so I can see how it ends! No surprise that we cliffhangered again, but now we’re all so impatiently waiting for SEVER that I can’t wait to read it too.

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4/5 stars
I definitely enjoyed WITHER more. I think it had a lot more character development and I loved the relationships between Rhine and her “sister wives” a lot in that book, as well as the sort of rivalry between Linden and Gabriel. FEVER was a lot more action, a lot more running, a lot more on the move, and I think that took precedence over a lot of the relationship developments that I loved so much in the first book. Still a really fun read, but WITHER is my chosen favorite so far!

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Delirium/Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver — Another great Lauren writing some awesome dystopia. If you haven’t read DELIRIUM yet and you like the Chemical Garden series, I highly recommend picking it up! Definitely one of my favorite books, and it’s so lyrical and moving. 
…OR…
Matched by Ally Condie — I feel like this is another great match as far as similar series goes. So many of the same situations, love stories, and fighting for your life.

Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) – Lauren DeStefano

Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) – Lauren DeStefanoTitle: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Publishing Info: March 22, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Library
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 1, 2012
Related Posts: Fever (The Chemical Garden #2), Sever (The Chemical Garden #1)

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
    When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.
    Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

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Okay, at first, I was kind of creeped out with the child bride stuff. The youngest girl Cecily is only 13 when she becomes Linden’s bride and since she is the most eager after being rescued from an orphanage, she immediately becomes the favorite to bear Linden’s children and is pregnant at 13. Pretty messed up. But taking into account what the book is all about, I guess that really does make sense in this messed up future world. Children have to be parents to new children in order to be around at all to raise them, and Linden’s three brides are there to preserve the human race and carry on his family before they are all wiped out.

Putting that aside… I loved it. I loved Rhine as the heroine of this book. She doesn’t have to fight to be strong. She knows that her strongest bet is to play along with the marriage and all the while bide her time while she finds the perfect escape strategy. I got so wrapped up in the story and it was really interesting to see all the tangles of relationships that Rhine has with all of the members in the house. I loved her relationship with her sister wives. They really do become sisters and furthermore, you really get to see each of the personalities of Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily and really get to know them. Lauren DeStefano does a great job of really getting you to know the girls and I felt like I could picture the story as it was happening. Great descriptions and I really felt connected to each of the girls.

Housemaster Vaughn. Where do I begin? He is accurately described as Dr. Frankenstein in the book. He’s a doctor and so desperate to find a cure for this disease so his son won’t die. Rhine seriously doubts the girls mean anything to him and his charm is pure cover and makes her (and me) shiver with the disgusting sweetness he plays out. Rhine is sure that he’s testing on anyone who dies from this disease to find a cure, all the while keeping Linden as his puppet, completely clueless about what’s really going on. Vaughn is the one who Rhine must hide from in order to stay safe and stay alive to escape from their prison — I mean, mansion.

I really enjoyed the story and I was hooked! Great characters, very interesting plot line, and I can’t wait to read the second book!!

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Read it!

Really loved it! A lovely dystopian world (although a bit creepy) and I just couldn’t put it down!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE WITHER