Reading level: Young Adult
Size: 352 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: 2nd book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 4/5 stars
This is the second book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy by DeStefano. I enjoyed this installment in the series, although not quite as much as Wither. DeStefano writes beautifully and delivers a compelling story that will definitely grab the readers attention.
Rhine and Gabriel have escaped from Rhine’s husband’s house only to be trapped by a twisted ringmistress of pleasures. Rhine is determined to get back to Manhattan to find her brother, but the place she is trapped in now is even worse than the house than she had to watch her sister-wives die in. Even if Rhine and Gabriel can escape the Madame they have to evade Rhine’s husband’s twisted father Vaughn and actually find Rhine’s twin brother Rowen.
DeStefano just hands down writes beautifully. She is absolutely adept at making locations and scenes come vividly alive; she makes the characters come alive and then makes you despair as she sucks the life out of them…only for the characters to regroup and come out of their trial…well not intact, but alive. I think it is the metaphor’s Rhine uses that make this book so alive; Rhine sees beauty in the simplest things even when she is surrounded by squalor.
Seriously Rhine goes through so much in this book, I felt bad for the poor girl. She is defintiely the driving force in this book. She is the one who makes decisions and survives, yet still manages to make caring for others (no matter how horrible the people she deals with) one of her main goals. Rhine is one of those characters that totally kicks butt, without ever resorting to violence.
Gabriel was an interesting character in his own right. It was intriguing to watch how someone who never left the Mansion reacts to the world that Rhine grew up in. I tried to keep this in mind as I read about Gabriel, because he acts extremely sheltered throughout the story. That’s not to say he doesn’t grow as a character, but especially very early in the story I was frustrated with how complaint Gabriel was and his lack of fight. Vaughn is everything an absolutely horrible evil man should be, he is the perfect villain, and creeps me out just as bad as he did in the first book.
We meet a ton of wonderful new characters. Lilac is trapped at the Carnival with Rhine and Lilac has a wonderful deformed daughter named Maddy. Maddy really adds a ton to the story; she is smart as a whip and just a spectacular child.
The plot was very well done and this book is mostly about the journey the characters take. It was fascinating to finally see more of this destroyed world and to watch as Gabriel is exposed to it. As with many of these dystopian books, there is more going on politically than first meets the eye and the reader is exposed to more political unrest than we saw in the first book. I just can’t wait to see where this series ends up.
Overall an excellent addition to this series. I love the characters, the world, and the plot. We get to meet wonderful new characters, the plot is broadened, and the world is heartbreaking. The thing that really elevates this book over many other YA dystopian books is the beautiful writing; it just brings the story alive for me. I can’t wait to read the next book when it releases next year. Highly recommended to fans of YA dystopia books. I also recommend Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.