Monday, January 13, 2014

Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano Series Review

***contains spoilers***

Plot: 1.5/5
For the majority of this series, the plot seemed disjointed and random. The plot for Wither (book 1) was by far the best, Fever (book 2) was utterly pointless and I’ll talk more about Sever (book 3) when we get there.

Like I said, Wither was the best book plotwise. The story begins with our heroine, Rhine, having already been kidnapped and sold into a polygamist marriage. The whole point of this book is Rhine trying to escape so she can return to her twin brother, Rowan. The premise there alone is fairly good, and also, there is ONE SINGLE THING in this book that consistently pushes the plot forward: Rhine’s desire to escape.
I honestly did not like the first half of this book, because it seemed like EVERY SINGLE PAGE Rhine was feeling a different drastic emotion than the one before. “I hate him, I pity him, I like him, I hate this other guy, but he’s hot, so I like him, I’m curious about this girl but don’t really feel one way or the other, while this other girl disgusts me, but she’s so naïve, so I like her, and during all this I’ve been bouncing between liking two guys and hating one of them and…” this emotional roller coaster whiplash was NOT fun for me. It felt like the author decided to run me through the clothes washer and I was getting banged on all sides of it and tumbled around and never looking at or feeling the same thing for more than half a second. It was TERRIBLE. Around the second half, though, the emotional roller coaster whiplash stopped, thankfully. And there were some incredibly charming moments.
The GEM of this book was in chapter 15, when Cecily, Jenna and Rhine all worked together to create an incredibly awkward situation for Linden so he can give them so freedom. It was such a funny and charming moment, it is absolutely the High Point of this book, if you ask me.

Rhine and her pointless boyfriend have escaped from Vaughn and Linden and are now headed to Manhatten to find Rhine’s brother, Rowan, and live happily ever after. Except that they are promptly captured by an insane old lady who drugs them up and pimps them out. (This is a PRIME example of the randomness of the plot). And then this lasts for HALF the book. They escape the insane old lady’s clutches with the child of the one of the prostitutes and continue to Manhatten. When they reach Manhatten, Rhine is devastated to find her brother gone and her house burned down. Despairing, the child points to an address in her book which is like, two blocks away from them. There they go.
And then they sit there. Doing nothing. For a good chunk of the book.
But they can’t, because Rhine is sick, in the way people who are dying get sick. Oh, dear.
And then Rhine is captured by Vaughn and BROUGHT BACK TO THE VERY SAME PLACE SHE ESCAPED FROM IN WITHER. And, of course, she gets experimented and goes crazy.
And then it ends!
But, do you see what I mean when I say the plot is disjointed and random? Do you see?

Sever begins with Rhine eager to once again escape Vaughn’s clutches, but after her ordeal with being crazy and nearly cutting her leg off, she’s not quite up to trekking around the country to go after her brother, who is, by the way, a terrorist.
So, she’s goes and stays with Linden’s uncle, the slightly eccentric Reed. But only until she’s ready to go trekking around the country after her brother, the terrorist. Oh, and she also has to find her pointless boyfriend, whom she thinks about only a couple times throughout the book.
So, she going to stay at Reed’s for five days. Those five days are up, and Linden says, “but wait, just let me get some shit together to give to you to help your journey, you know?” So two more days are tacked on. And then there’s a disaster with Cecily which adds a couple more weeks on... and this continues for half the book. AND NOTHING HAPPENS. The author spent THIS MUCH of the book stalling. There is no other word for it. DeStefano did not have a plot for this book so she stalled and thought I wouldn’t notice because she added Drama with Cecily’s disaster (which was incredibly upsetting for those three pages when I thought she was dead). But, however upset I was over Cecily, I DID notice that DeStefano was stalling and I DO resent it.
When they (Rhine, Linden, and Cecily) finally set out after Rhine’s brother, the terrorist, they are, once again, promptly captured by Madame, the pimp from Fever. However, they discover that they all have a character in common in their past, so it’s all fine and dandy and Madame helps hide them from Vaughn when he comes after them.
Rhine talks to one of the guards who works for Madame and he helps her escape and find her brother, the terrorist. They find him and reunite in all of ten pages.
Hey! Maybe—instead of all that stalling in the first half, you could have added some obstacles in finding Rowan and reuniting with him! What an idea!
We soon discover that Vaughn has been manipulating Rowan this whole time, and Rowan is actually NOT a terrorist! (but he did blow stuff up). Oh, and moreover, Vaughn is a good guy, and we (Rhine) are TRUSTING him now!
It was at this point I began to shout at Rhine. “What are you doing! This is a BAD MAN. He killed Jenna; he nearly killed Cecily. He has experimented on you and done TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE things! WHY ARE YOU TRUSTING HIM?????
—The one good thing about this book, though, is that the pointless boyfriend is still nowhere to be seen. Hallelujah!
Anyway, from there, people died and people were cured and when I closed the book after reading the last page I sat there and asked:
“So what? Why did you tell me this story? Why, in this incredibly rich world that is obviously full of intriguing and important stories, was it necessary to tell me this one? Why do I care?”
And there’s no answer for that. I don’t care. I don’t see a point that I should care about within this story.

Characters: 3/5
Rhine: Here is our main character. I don’t really like her. I didn’t enjoy her voice (let me refer you to the Emotional Roller Coaster Whiplash). I didn’t like her choices. The only thing I truly liked about her, was her singular focus on finding her brother. I have three brothers. If I lived in post-apocalyptic world and I was separated from them, my number one priority would be finding them. Unfortunately, Rhine is so often distracted by other things on her path to finding her brother, that her search for him drags on for the entire trilogy, and when we FINALLY do meet him, it’s rather anti climatic.
Gabriel: This is the Pointless Boyfriend I mentioned in my plot breakdowns. What I truly disliked about Gabriel, was not even that I didn’t like him. I just really hated his PURPOSE. Gabriel’s entire purpose was to add romantic tension and also so that we could have love triangle. And since he had such an Important Purpose, DeStefano felt no need to characterize him at all, give him any sort of meaningful past or backstory, any thoughts or opinions of his own, or even a personality. And THIS is what I hated about him. If you removed Rhine from the story, Gabriel, as a character, would simply fall over. He is not a character. He is not even a person. He is a cardboard cutout. All the other characters in the series, you could reasonably remove Rhine and they would still have a story. Gabriel wouldn’t. Gabriel would just live out his life, and never even have an independent thought enter his head. Every single thought AND opinion he voiced was based off of a thought or opinion Rhine had voiced. And the terrible thing is, THERE WERE POINTS IN THE STORY WHERE GABRIEL COULD HAVE DEVELOPED OUTSIDE OF RHINE. He wanted to stay at Vaughn’s! Go into that! He was addicted to the Angel’s Blood, and they had an extra vial! Have him steal it! But no. DeStefano was just too lazy to put any though into this character, and you can tell.
Linden: Linden, see, was a better love interest. He HAD thoughts and opinions, that were, admittedly, based off of a very narrow view of the world, but they WERE NOT based on Rhine’s thoughts and opinions. He had a meaningful backstory. He had a personality. A sweet, naïve personality, almost like a child, though he is one of the oldest characters in the series.
Rose: Rose, you see, could have had a story ALL ABOUT HER, that I would read, even if Rhine was removed from the story completely. Tell a story about Rose as she’s dying, her internal conflicts with her life and death, her parents, her decision to tell her husband to marry other girls while she still lived, her LOVE FOR LINDEN. I would  read that story. And probably enjoy it more than this one.
Jenna: Again, remove Rhine from the story. What would happen? Would we learn more about her past as a prostitute? Her sisters and how she feels about their deaths? How she feels about Linden and her situation?
Cecily: Cecily is BY FAR the best, most well developed character in this series. She is the ONLY CHARACTER, who, from the moment we meet her, is consistently GROWING and CHANGING and MOVING FORWARD through out the story.
Vaughn: Vaughn. Oh, Vaughn. Why? Just, why anything? Why were you so creepy if you were really good the whole time? He was an AMAZING villain. And, then, he wasn’t a villian anymore. I really don’t know what DeStefano was thinking with his character.
Lilac: Here! Remove Rhine from the story. Go back to when she was kidnapped. Who was she married too? Was her husband kind, as Linden is, or cruel? When exactly did he tell her he wanted to terminate her pregnancy? What about her relationship with Jared? and Maddie! Lilac’s character is honestly SO MUCH RICHER than Rhine’s.
Silas: Now, when we met Silas, I was practically screaming at the book, “KISS HIM! BREAK UP WITH GABRIEL AND MAKE THIS KID THE LOVE INTEREST! Of course, that didn’t happen, but I think it would have been a MUCH smarter choice than continuing with Gabriel.

The Romance: 0/5
And I think we already know why the romance score is Zero. If you don’t, then… you just weren’t paying attention to my plot breakdown rants OR my character rant concerning Gabriel.

Overall Grade: 4.5/15. I think that’s a FAIL.
There was POTENTIAL in this series. An AMAZING and INTRICATE world, full of INTERESTING and RELEVANT STORIES based on RICH and WELL-LAYERED characters. Unfortunately, the story the author chose to focus on was random and brimming with unconnected plot points that resulted in a fairly un-cohesive plot and she based this story on characters who were unlikeable and made bad decisions or were obviously half-assed with not much thought put into them.
The WRITING in this series is LOVELY. I mean, if you notice the praise on the inside flap, you’ll see those other author’s talking about the writing.
THE WRITING IS WHAT IS MEANT TO GRAB YOU AND KEEP YOU according to the praise. The writing. Not the plot, or the characters, or the romance. The WRITING. Having beautiful writing is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But excessively beautiful writing does not make up for Pointless and Unlikeable main characters or a Completely Random Plot or the Emotional Roller Coaster Whiplash.

No, I am not impressed.

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