By Lauren DeStefano
My Rating: 3.5 / 5
This is the third and final book in the Chemical Garden series, following Wither and Fever. Spoiler alert for all three books (although I think just minor spoilers for Sever), and I suppose minor spoilers for The Walking Dead season two (trying to cover all my bases)!
Here is the summary from the Kobo store:
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.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book – I had no idea how Rhine’s story was going to be wrapped up, and whether or not there would be a cure. I was really eager to start reading this.
Right away, I felt the absence of Gabriel, who had been a pretty important character in the first two books. Much of the story involved Rhine, Linden, and Cecily, but there was a lot of talk of Rose and Jenna. Even though they were dead, I still felt as though I learned a lot about those two girls in this book. I also really enjoyed the scenes with Reed, Vaughn’s brother.
I was frustrated at times reading this because I was tired of Linden’s obliviousness. I wanted Rhine to tell him everything about Vaughn and what he had done, and she had so many opportunities to do so, but she held back each time. I also felt that the book stalled at Reed’s home for a lot longer than was necessary – I was ready for Rhine to leave, but each time it looked like she was going to leave and go find Rowan, something happened to keep her there. Some of these events were pretty major, but really, I started to feel like I did during season 2 of The Walking Dead when they spent all season on Hershel’s farm: things were happening occasionally, but it felt like a lot more nothing was happening.
However, this book did a really good job, more towards the end, of humanizing Vaughn a bit more, and of giving more insight into his character. When Rhine and Rowan were reunited, and it was clear that Rowan did not see Vaughn as an enemy, she learned more about Vaughn and what he was up to, and he actually opened her eyes to things she might never have seen otherwise. It’s not like had a full on change of heart about Vaughn, but her opinion of him shifted somewhat, and it was really believable for me.
There were some major character deaths in this book, and honestly, one of them completely took me by surprise. And then my emotional reaction to that death took me by surprise – I like these books, but I’ve never really felt all that invested in them, and I didn’t feel much of a connection to Rhine by the time I picked up this third book. I just wanted to read it and see how everything would end. I was definitely caught off guard by my feelings at this particular character’s death, and I think it’s because this book snuck up on me. Perhaps more than in Fever and Wither, I really felt for Rhine and the others.
This book was well-written, and as mentioned above, the story managed to surprise me, particularly the way certain locations from the previous books were revisited, and the revelations that certain characters were much more connected to events than I realized. It was unexpected, and had me thinking back to the previous books, so it really helped tie the entire series together for me.
I hate trying to avoid spoilers, because it means I feel like I can’t really say anything about the book, but I hope I’m not giving too much away when I say that I liked the cautiously optimistic way this book, and series, ended.
If you’re interested in YA that’s a bit dark, I recommend that you pick up this series!