Friday, April 6, 2012

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever picks up almost immediately where Wither left off - Rhine and Gabriel have landed on the ocean beach and make their way towards lights in the distance. Those lights turn out to be the home of a demented woman who runs a brothel out of a derelict carnival. When they are captured they find dozens of young girls and armed boys who work and live in tents for "Madame". Madame Soleski keeps Gabriel drugged with "angel blood" while she lays out her plan to put Rhine to work as a dancer. Rhine and Gabriel try to plan their escape but this proves difficult as they are often drugged. When Rhine's sinister father-in-law, Vaughan, tracks them to the carnival and tries to bargain for Rhine, she and Gabriel realize it's imperative that they escape. Aided by Jared, Madame's right hand man, and another girl Lilac, they manage to flee, taking Lilac's disabled daughter, Maddie with them.

After several more frightening situations, Rhine and Gabriel manage to make it back to Manhattan. Rhine makes the heart-rending discovery that her home has been destroyed and her twin brother, Rowan, gone. Having no where else to turn, Rhine and Gabriel locate the address written in the front of Maddie's favourite storybook. This turns out to be the home of Maddie's grandmother, who offers to take them in.

But all is not well. First of all, Gabriel is disillusioned with what he life is like outside the mansion. The world Rhine has brought him to is very different from the one she portrayed to him while living at Vaughan's mansion. Secondly, it soon becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong with Rhine, who seems to be suffering from some unknown illness.  She experiences fevers, vomiting and hallucinations. Neither she nor Gabriel can find the cause of her symptoms and wonder whether her evil father-in-law, Vaughan did something  to her. Rhine comes to the realization that freedom might cost her more than she is prepared to give. When Vaughan reappears, she makes a decision that vaults her back into horror worse than she could have ever imagined.

Although the overarching storyline in Fever is appealing, the way DeStefano has structured the novel doesn't work to hold the reader's interest. Throughout the middle portion of the novel, Rhine and Gabriel, either together or at alternating times, are sick, drugged and hallucinating, or asleep. As a result, there is little in the way of character development and not much growth in their relationship. While there is a purpose to Rhine's illness (which is revealed towards the end of the book), it doesn't make for exciting reading, even with DeStefano's decent prose.

We do not learn much more about the state of the destroyed world that Rhine lives in. What destroyed all the other continents? Providing the reader with more details about the world and the state of affairs in America would have helped to make the story more engaging, helping readers better empathize and identify with Rhine.

Second novels are typically bridges between revealing first books and third novels that wrap up the story with a satisfying ending. They are difficult to write, because it is a hard task to maintain the reader's interest, while further developing the plot, characters, and world. What I found intriguing is that both DeStefano and the author of Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver ended their second books with one word - the name of a character.

I especially enjoyed the cover of Fever, which pulled together many elements of the novel; the carnival, the drugged condition of Rhine, tarot cards, and the tacky opulence of the homes of several characters.

Book Details:
Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Toronto: Simon & Shuster Children's Publishers   2012
341 pp.

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