Review: Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever

 by Lauren DeStefano

Four stars

“Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion but haven’t outrun the danger. One the outside, they encounter a landscape as mysterious and threatening as the one they left behind. Despite the perils, the two are determined to get to Manhattan and to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men to age twenty-five, time is precious. Even worse, 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 necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is with the price–now that she has more to lose than ever.”

(This book review is from an Advanced Review Copy, won from Goodreads)

First off, let me just extend a thank you to Goodreads, Simona & Schuster and–of course–Lauren DeStefano for getting this book into the world and then gifting it to me early. This is the first ARC I’ve ever gotten and the first early review I’ve ever done, so I’m just going to do my best and also try not to spoil anything. It is going to be freaking hard, because I want to squeal SO MUCH. Where to start…

The beginning is always a good place to start! Let me tell you, Fever is aptly titled. The first part of this book–until about Chapter 9 or so (out of 27 chapters)–reads like a haze. DeStefano has a very lyrical way of writing, and its infused with a sort of haze all throughout the beginning that gives the book a sense of surrealism. Usually, I hate that kind of thing. Hey, have you seen my review of Shatter Me? Usually lyrical writing–overdone like that–really turns me off. But it works rather well with the surrealism of Rhine’s current situation, somehow. It still doesn’t completely jive with my particular taste in style (part of the reason this isn’t a five star review), but I found myself stuck reading…and reading…and reading. After Chapter 9, the book falls into the saner rhythm, with the lyrical phrasing and such more interspersed–the way Wither was written, basically. There is still a tinge of the “fever,” though, which helps to connect the switch.

Another thing found in those first few chapters? DeStefano’s other magical ability, to take on a situation that has such a bad stigma to it and make it work for her story. It was polygamy in Wither, and it’s prostitution in Fever–neither of which are small change! You clearly don’t get the feelings of approval or anything, but… Well, it’s hard to describe. Anyone who’s read Wither knows what I mean. (Wait a sec. If you haven’t read Wither, what exactly are you doing here? Go check out my review of the first book and check back in here later! :P)

The pace of the entirety of the book is FAST. There are a few moments of peace for the characters, but even then there is hectic undertone that makes you keep reading and reading until the book is all gone and you go WAIT GIVE ME MORE. Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Fever was also great about answering a few questions but then opening up a hundred more. (Read “great” with AGH I WANT TO KNOW accents.) I, for one, prefer fast paced books where things are just hitting me one after the other because it’s the only way I can keep my interest in it, and this book delivered.

I wish I could go into my other reasons for docking a star from this review, but in my efforts to stay spoiler free I must say rather little. Actually, they are a lot like the issues I had with the first book. Most of them came from character development, nominally Rhine and Gabriel, whom I’ve had issues with since Wither. There is an aspect of falseness to their relationship still, though events in Fever suggest this might be intentional. (Though I am still completely befuddled by the whole Rhine-Linden dynamic.) Also, the tempo. Despite being fast paced, I was never utterly and completely invested in characters such as Rhine, yet I found myself liking the characters of Lilac and Maddie (don’t worry, you’ll meet them soon) right away. Thus, when things happened to Rhine, my heart wasn’t pulsing like it should have been. As I said in my review of the first book, perhaps DeStefano’s way with words is one reason the plot never got to my heart rate, but I refuse to put too much blame there because she has a way with words.

Fans of the first book, of course, just want to know one thing (besides the entire plot and all the spoilers that they can’t get til Fever hits shelves, but you know): Does Fever measure up to Wither? The answer is yes. Totally and absolutely yes. If you were having sequel anxiety, worry not! If you loved the first book, you’ll be heading head over heels for the second one. Your unbearable wait for February 21 will be worth it, I promise.

Now, Goodreads, you’ve got the expected release date for the third book set as April 1, 2013. How sweet do I have to be to get an early copy of that? 😀

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Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

4 stars

“Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding the antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.”

Yes, another dystopian! What can I say? This stuff is in vogue right now and there’s only so much I can see or hear about a book before I snatch it off the shelves and go FINE ALRIGHT ALREADY. (It was also on sale, so that helped too.) I had researched this book on Goodreads once again, and found that several friends whose opinions I trust had loved this book, but some others had also disliked it. Once again, I came at it with lower expectations.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Despite DeStefano’s world seeming to be even less of a believable concept than that of Ally Condie’s Matched (whose world building issues were discussed at length here), I believed in it—which I hadn’t believed I would. How could anyone make both extremely short life spans and polygamous marriages work, right? Apparently, DeStefano—very well, I might add. But onto that in a minute…

Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first, shall we? There were two things that really got to me: 1) Rhine and Gabriel and 2) the “tempo” of the plot. The relationship between Rhine and Gabriel might have been more of an issue with my personal taste, but it just felt forced. First they’re friends and then they’re kissing and then they’re friends and then they’ve got their hands on each other and then they’re friends again. I was honestly quite baffled by their relationship. It felt like a sincere friendship, but the story seemed to be trying to force it into something more. Clearly these two have a relationship coming in the next book, but I would have preferred to see them as just honest friends in Wither (which was done well in the spots where they were just friends).

The tempo of the plot was a much bigger issue, though there’s really less to say on it. There was certainly things happening and I could barely stop reading, but the book never affected by heart rate if you know what I mean. There were certainly points where the plot got to me, but they were more flashes than anything else.

But you can bet your life I’ll be reading the second book in this trilogy, titled Fever and expected February 21, 2012. Why? Because of everything DeStefano did right, and her way with words. Perhaps her way with words is one reason the plot never got to my heart rate—sometimes short and succinct are better and more gripping, aspiring writers!—but I refuse to put too much blame there because she has a way with words. Descriptions, analogies, etc—I wanted to write them down and steal them.

Also, polygamy. No matter your feelings on the subject, that’s a tough thing to write about. DeStefano never blinks. You’re never given the feeling that the marriages are right, but they never feel contrived either. How she managed to make polygamy feel like a societal convention but wrong at the same time is beyond me and I like it.

All and all, I think dystopian fans should definitely give Wither a shot. Unlike Matched, which was very romance oriented, Wither felt much deeper and plot oriented, with just enough romance to keep romance lovers happy but not turn off people who think YA romance should be burnt. Relationships in the book—such as the friendship between Rhine and Gabriel and the camaraderie between the sister wives—are excellently written and feel decidedly real. It hints at moral questions but doesn’t get preachy. In a nutshell, I found Wither to be a fine addition to the dystopian titles exploding off the shelves right now. If you enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth and/or Matched, I totally recommend that you give it a shot.