Heartfelt Storytelling But Anti-Climactic | Review of ‘Sever’ (The Chemical Garden, #3)

By: Cynthia Ayala

Sever by Lauren DeStefano:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The final novel in The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Best Selling author Lauren DeStefano. Published on February 12, 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. A dystopic science fiction novel for young adults, this final novel follows Rhine as she solves the mystery of the chemical garden as she searches for her brother, a known terrorist working with the one person she never thought: Housemaster Vaughn. However, with Linden’s help, she finds refuge with Vaughn brother and finds a way to save her brother from the monster she knows.

DeStefano has taken great strides in telling a story and focusing on the story as a reflection of the narrative. Not only is this a well told fictional story but also a very oriented in building the story and the characters around it, making the story seem very real. This novel is the end of the trilogy but as an end, it circles back to the beginning, to the past, interconnecting all the elements and the characters throughout the series. While some of these instances initially come off as a stretch, in the end, they fit together perfectly and build an amazing backstory to the story. Additionally, many moments that may have been forgotten reemerge with passion and thought.

Many stories evolve past the initial novel, but with a story like this, circling back to the beginning is a strength. Drawing back on elements from the first two novels, the story explores everything essential to Rhine, i.e. her appearance; her heterochromia. That element was a very subtle plot point that only seemed to highlight the madness of Housemaster Vaughn. However, here, it is given a purpose that connects all the way back to the original book. Readers discover what is so important about it while also exploring the history of Rhine and her twin brother Rowan.

The events and unveiling build the story, giving it momentum, pushing the reader forward to find out what is going to happen next. While it is good that all the loose ends are tied up in the novel, some of the events just don’t fit with the characters, even pulling them out of character.

Rowan is a prime example. In this novel, he has been painted as a terrorist blowing up buildings of science to take away what he calls “false hope.” However, the moment Rhine is reunited with him his character makes a complete 180-turn. Readers have not had a chance to attach or understand this character, and for this event to take place jars the reader out of the text.

Then there is Housemaster Vaughn. The series has built this character up as a mad scientist, but now everything has changed, in a moment. It is another whiplash moment on the reader. Vaughn is a manipulative character, and the charisma that he exudes, is purely superficial. If anything, he is even more detestable than he is in the previous novels, and the revelations do that more than his character. The character shift just doesn’t work in his case and, like with Rowan, comes off as unrealistic.

Nevertheless, this well-structured novel told a good story. While the ending was put together well, it still came off as anti-climactic, especially after the moment where Cecily’s character, her real nature, just raises the stakes. It is a jaw-dropping moment that makes everything that follows, while solid and heartfelt, miniscule in comparison. (★★★☆☆ | B+)

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