Sever (Wither #3) – YA Dystopian Book Review

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Let me start by saying I have never been so frustrated at a character that I nearly threw the book across the room until now. And I probably would have had I not been in my classroom with a bunch of freshman watching Gnomeo and Juliet.

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Of course, I’ve never seen a character so uncharacteristically stupid and passive when she SERIOUSLY needed to be bold and brave!

I have very mixed feelings about this 3rd and final book in The Chemical Gardens Trilogy. See my post of the first book here. Therefore…sorry, but not sorry, for such a long, animated post.

What I liked: There was a lot of suspense (much more than the 2nd book, see my review for it here). We got the feeling that we were actually getting somewhere with the major conflicts and issues and that exciting things were happening. I also loved some of the very quotable statements the author placed in the book about life, death, freedom, etc. As in the last 2 books, but probably more so in this one, Lauren DeStefano artfully illustrates the themes of this series in beautiful, poignant statements that really hit home and make you think. I loved that!

What I didn’t like: So much about the main character wasn’t believable or was confusing.

For one thing, she is away from the guy she likes (maybe even loves) for a long time and doesn’t think about him hardly at all. I mean, I get that you don’t want her always thinking of him because it could be repetitive and annoying, but at least let her do it a little. Just enough to remind us she has normal feelings and emotions and hasn’t completely forgotten him or doesn’t care.

********SPOILER ALERT (Don’t proceed if you have’t read the book)********

For another thing, the way she acts towards her former husband/captor, who, granted, wasn’t a horrible guy, is very confusing and up and down. I know that she’s confused too, but the enigma that is her relationship towards this guy are difficult to grasp and relate to. Especially since he was 21 and she was 16 when they got married. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

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However, the worst part of all, was how things shifted with her and Dr. Evil himself. Throughout the whole series she has hated him, despised him, been terrified of him…to the point where she is determined not to go back to the mansion, even if it means saving her life, and she even cuts open her own leg so he can’t find her.

After all that, she comes to this pivotal moment where she’s faced with her brother taking her to this same evil doctor that he has been deceived to think is awesome, not knowing anything about what Rhine went through with him. Rhine knows it’s the same doctor who did all these horrible things to her and to the people she cared about. Yet, instead of telling her brother what she knows, all we get is this tiny, weak paragraph:

“He [her brother] grabs my hand and tells me to hurry, and we run through the rustling field, toward this menacing doctor, but with the summer breeze in my hair, I let myself pretend that everything is going to be all right.”

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WHAT????!!! You’ve got to be kidding me! “I let myself pretend that everything is going to be all right”?? If you couldn’t tell, this is where I almost threw the book at the wall.

I mean SERIOUSLY?! The “summer breeze” in your hair? Because that makes a year’s worth of horrendous atrocities seem not that bad.

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Part of me gets that, as an author, sometimes you have to figure out a way for your characters to get from point A to point B, and it’s not always easy. But I can think of at least 2 ways she could’ve made this better. One, Rhine was so terrified she couldn’t even speak and her brother drug her along. Two, she was afraid her newly-tough and possibly crazy brother would turn against her, not believing her story because he already idolized this guy. The author actually sort of implies this later, but right at that moment is where it was needed.

Oh, but it gets worse. As I kept reading, I kept waiting and waiting for her to just come out and tell her brother at least a fraction of what this evil guy has done. But no! She keeps him in the dark! And it’s not like there weren’t opportunities. The doctor freaking left them alone several times! The most she got out were a few questions to try to make him realize how the doctor maybe shouldn’t be trusted. Again, she does eventually imply that she’s worried of losing her brother if she pushes too much, but I don’t buy all that and it took a while to get that explanation. In the meantime, we’re flipping out and screaming at the book (at least in our minds if we’re in public), trying to will her to speak.

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There were several times, too, when the doctor was explaining himself and the situation to Rhine’s brother in his own distorted version to make himself not look bad, and she never interjects to correct him! She thinks it, but is never bold enough to let it out. Why?! She’s been more than bold and brave in the past, and she doesn’t imply that it’s because she’s too terrified of him. This is uncharacteristic of her, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it one bit.

Also, as this went on, and she started to see a different side to this evil doctor and somewhat understand what he was doing, I was very resistant to go with her. Even she was resistant, not as much as you would expect from her. Even so, I didn’t like that we were seeing this different side of him. I just wanted to hate him. Maybe that’s horrible of me, but with all he’d done, I didn’t want to view him in the same way I’d come to view Rhine’s husband and even Madame. As it got close to the end, I even had a horrific fear that he would somehow be excused or change with how Rhine had been seeing him differently.

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Lastly, the ending…I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think most dystopian series seem to end either a little too tidy or unfinished. There’s never a good in-between is there? Either they leave you to imagine what happens, or they try to wrap up everything in a tidy, neat bow so we feel closure. The latter is what happened in this book. As I was nearing the end and saw how little was left, I was seriously perplexed about how on earth the author was going to wrap everything up so quickly. I think the events themselves worked well, but it seemed rather quick.

Overall, I’d probably give it a 3.5. I’d still recommend the series but with some caution.

 

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~ by Dusty Crabtree - Author of Shadow Eyes on May 1, 2017.

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