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Fever - Lauren DeStefano
Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did

Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither. Having escaped the confines of the mansion, Rhine and Gabriel make the run to freedom only to find that the outside world may offer even less of it. As they struggle to make their way to Manhattan in search of safety and Rhine’s twin brother, the two find that the world is populated by those both cruel and kind and that everyone is looking for a way to survive.

When I read WITHER last year, I was impressed by the author’s writing and her willingness to explore what dire things might happen in a world where all young people die early. Even with this gritty dystopian world laid out, I found the world building to be weak enough that I spent a lot of time questioning how this world came about. Unfortunately, this is the same problem I had while reading FEVER, and it seemed even more prevalent this time. Incomplete or unbelievable world building continued to draw me out of the story too often. Also, while I liked the author’s exploration of sexuality and oppression in the first book, this book’s tone comes across as even more bleak and without as much purpose. Rhine and Gabriel routinely end up in situations that felt like they were there more for shock value than for character or plot development. And when these terrible things happen, they don’t touch the main characters in the way one would expect, again making the world less believable. Because of this, I sometimes felt disconnected from Rhine and Gabriel and their struggles. I also never felt really moved by Rhine and Gabriel’s relationship, despite a few good moments. The book then finishes on a cliffhanger with little resolution. FEVER as a whole felt very much like a “middle book” where things don’t move forward a great deal.

On the positive side, DeStefano continues to show that she can write well, and her pretty prose allows readers to easily visualize the surroundings she describes. FEVER also provides much more information about the world outside the mansion, and sympathetic new characters are introduced. Although I don’t think it was as well done as in the first book, I also continue to appreciate the author’s willingness to examine the harsh realities that could result in a world where women become little more than sexual commodities.

Overall, FEVER failed to keep my attention in the way that WITHER did one year ago, and it didn’t leave me mulling over important issues in the same way. Even such, I am sure that many fans of the first novel will appreciate this sequel and where it sets up things for the final book. I know I’ll be reading it to see where DeStefano takes her characters and her story and whether she leaves readers with a sense of hope or just continued despair.

Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.