Wither was one of those books where I purchased it because I knew I would love it, but it sat there on the shelf because there were so many other pressing matters to attend to first. So, for the YA Teacher Reader book club, I picked it to give me a reason to read it - and because it was in paperback for the other teachers who don't like to buy hardback - and I could not believe I had waited so long to read it.
I was excited to read Fever, but again, time was not my friend. But my senior girls were passing it around the room, and it had only been out a few days, so I knew I had to make it a weekend read. I am so glad I read this novel instead of grading papers. This was A LOT more fun - and rewarding.
Summary (from book jacket):
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 necessary.
In this sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price—now that she has more to lose than ever.
Readers are propelled back into Rhine’s world – one full of constant uncertainty. While Rhine and Gabriel may have escaped the Mansion, they have not escaped what they have left behind. Actually, that’s not true for both, only Rhine. And Vaughn is not letting her get away that easily. He seems to always be one step behind, like Michael Myers in the Halloween movies – he comes out of nowhere, and I like it. I think readers will too.
The two things I really enjoy about this series are plot development and Rhine.
As far as plot development, DeStefano paces this novel a little more slowly than the first. It allows readers to slow down, experience what Rhine and Gabriel experience, and to patiently wait for what is to come. After all, we have to survive Madame just as much as Rhine and Gabriel. Readers will be surprised with the outcome of the escape, of the plan to get to Manhattan, and with the ultimate result of it all. I found the conclusion of this novel not as satisfying as Wither, but that is because I wanted more, not because the author faulted on the story.
For Rhine as a character – I love this girl. I don’t know what it is about her, but I root for her. I’m not even 100% sure what I am rooting for – just that she plays a major role in it. Which, of course she does because she is the main character, but still. I witnessed Rhine’s development in the first book more than in this one, and at the time I did not see what the author was setting up, but looking back I now get it – she allowed Rhine to develop more in the first book, to plot and escape, so that Rhine could slow down and deal with the consequences. And she does!
While Rhine may be escaping from Vaughn, and while he may be absent for a good portion of the first part of this novel, she still pays the price for her escape through the “torture” of Madame. Madame wants Rhine to be her special girl, the one who really brings in the money, but this is not a part of Rhine and Gabriel’s escape plan. There is not more I can say without ruining plot points, but trust me, Rhine would have been better off in that Mansion than in the hands of Madame.
I felt satisfied with this novel as a whole. I felt there were a few elements that could have been tweaked, but I am sure those elements will prove important in the next installment of Rhine’s story. If you’ve read and enjoyed Wither, you should not pass on this sequel. If you’re not sure if you should read it but you have read Ally Condie’s Matched series, then you will enjoy this one (and vice versa).
I only have one complaint – and it’s a minor one, but I want to know if others felt the same. I did not get the sense of heat and tension between Rhine and Gabriel as I did in the first novel. It was more like they were brother and sister for me. Did anyone else have this problem?