Sever Ch28-31 WE’RE DONE

Last time, everyone’s sad for some reason despite the wonderful thing that’s happened. Also, evidence mounts that the cure will never be made available for the public.

Today, poor Cecily announces Evil Mad Scientist plans her death, because she knows Rhine is the sort of person who’ll ignore it otherwise. Proving Rhine is even worse than that, Rhine responds by saying that “Nobody is going to murder you, possibly because she’s distracted to ignore that the bath smells like the hours I’d spend getting ready for Linden’s parties. I’ll never be on his arm for another one. I’m trying to forget that he isn’t coming home. or possibly because she’s just inherently evil and self-centered. She spends the rest of the conversation either changing the subject or just flat out telling Cecily to stop talking.

“I was never anything but an incubator for his grandson,” she says.

But oh sweetie, you were never more than that to Linden either. The only difference is Linden could keep using you for more.

She says Linden’s mother is supposedly died in childbirth. She says she’s just been the pawn all this time. Rhine finally tells her the walls have ears, something she never considered any time before this book and still doesn’t when it comes to assuming it was Cecily deliberately carrying the story to Evil Mad Scientist, so I really can’t believe that’s more than an excuse. And as much sense as it’d make for him to do that, it doesn’t fit with the fact she and the other girls said and plotted all sorts of things during the first book and how Evil Mad Scientist was unaware of the people sneaking around his basement in the second book.

Rhine promises she’ll protect Cecily, but that’s not worth anything. The most Rhine’s ever done is make a halfhearted attempt to protect her boyfriend and that always just did more harm. She’s abandoned Cecily a hundred times over by now.

I tell her a story of my own. I tell her about a little girl, named Maddie, who doesn’t speak because, although she’s just a child, she has learned that this world has nothing to offer her. She’s found a way to hide herself in a world of her own, a world where there’s always music

If only more people could be precious mentally ill little angels.

Cecily falls asleep and Rhine lies awake to whine about how the rapist is dead and wonder if he suffered. He did. She wonders if there’s a soul and god and all that. I sure hope so because the rapist’s death was entirely too quick.

I like the idea of something greater than us. We destroy things with our curiosity. We shatter with our best intentions. We are no closer to perfection than we were one hundred years ago, or five hundred.

Five hundred years ago was either 1700 or 1600. You may recall that was the time when we hadn’t figured out it was bad to shit in our drinking water. There was the kind of slavery that left you with a maximum lifespan of a decade.

As disgusting as the people in these books are, even they’re better than humans have been.

She goes outside because she can’t sleep and tries again to commune with the orange grove ghosts. I don’t know why the fuck she thinks the rapist would have any useful advice for her in the first place. Evil Mad Scientist finds her because mad science does not sleep.

He laughs, and for once there is nothing dark about it. It’s sad and defeated.

I think this is a good insight into the book’s morality – sad and dark are opposite. If someone is unhappy, they can’t be evil. The rapist was melancholy all the time while his dad wasn’t, therefore his dad was evil. Cecily was trying to make the best of things, therefore she was the evilest.

He says how much he loves Bowen and how he’s sad his granddaughter isn’t here too. He explains he had to:

“One can never be certain they’ll live for a full day, a full year. There’s no certainty that they’ll speak, or that they’ll be able to draw a single breath without agony. My granddaughter wouldn’t have been the child her parents had been daydreaming about. She was bound to be nothing more than a heartbreak for the both of them.”
“That wasn’t your decision to make,” I say. “That wasn’t your child.”
“Linden was my child,” Vaughn snaps. “Everything that had to do with him concerned me. If he’d had time to fall in love with that baby, only to lose it, he would have come apart.”

And this is a much better villain motivation than almost everything else we’ve had. The problem is it still doesn’t add up. That’s only why he lied about it being stillborn. He could’ve raised the baby anywhere without his son knowing, from just taking it to the basement and setting up a room to buying a house somewhere else and staffing it with caretakers.

He then adds that by the way, Jenna was also malformed. I’m starting to think they don’t understand what the word means. Her uterus wasn’t right, so she couldn’t get pregnant, therefore when the virus treatment started to kill her he didn’t do anything to save her, because someone told the author twists are good so she just stuffs twists atop twists atop twists. Who fucking cares? He had every reason to kill Jenna outright in the first book, tacking on new stuff is meaningless.

He doesn’t get what she wants with Gabriel, and Rhine says some bullshit about freedom and he says some bullshit about how deadly freedom is because planes piloted by incompetents=freedom.

Of course it is. Rose’s life in her mother’s carnival would have been dangerous. And Cecily’s life as an orphan, and Jenna’s life with her sisters in a scarlet district, and my life in Manhattan.

What does any of that have to do with freedom?

Rose lived surrounded by imprisoned girls. Her parents took her with her on travels, but we’ll never know the degree they’d actually allow her freedom, because she was taken from them before she was even a teen. Her mother’s description of her makes her sound more like a beloved pet.

Cecily was not just an orphan, Cecily was one raised in some hellish orphanage to be either maid or broodmare. Where do you get the idea her life was any different, any less constrained, than Gabriel’s? Jenna is the closest to freedom, in that she got to pick which choice she found least horrible, and you can’t even understand that because you’ve taken the fact she was willing to have sex for money as a sign she was locked up in a scarlet district.

And you. You spent your life following your brother around and letting him make every decision for you. When you say freedom, all you mean is a wide view.

There was more freedom in the moment that plane came down than Linden had experienced in his whole life.

Rhine having forgotten already that the rapist not only could tell the driver to go anywhere he pleased but knew how to drive and could take the car any time he wanted.

Evil Mad Scientist starts crying and Rhine once again takes the opportunity to explain people who are sad must be good.

a loud crack splits the air, making me jump. Something rustles in the orange grove, but it isn’t a ghost.
Vaughn puts his hand to his chest, and that’s when I see the dark stain of blood on his shirt. Another shot comes, and then he drops to the ground, astonished eyes open and unblinking.
I’m too startled to scream.
Footsteps come toward me, and as she gets closer, I see my sister wife’s red hair in the moonlight. I see the opened purse at her hip, and the gun in her hand, and her unflinching stare as she looks at what she’s done.

Oh thank god Cecily I couldn’t take any more of this. I regret only that you didn’t get to shoot your rapist too.

It’s actually Madame’s gun, so this makes it her revenge too. Very nice.

Rhine tries to make sense of things in her own way, which is to say excuse Cecily being active by saying it’s hysteria:

There’s a space in her womb where her unborn child died inside her. There’s a place in the orange grove where her husband is buried.

She then, now that Evil Mad Scientist is dead, admits that also, there was no other way out.

It wouldn’t have ever been enough for Vaughn that I bled into tubes. It wouldn’t have been enough that Cecily gave him a grandchild and nearly died to give him another. It wouldn’t have been enough that Jenna was destroyed, or that Rose was in so much pain that she didn’t want to endure his measures to save her.
We were his disposable things. Brought to him like cattle. Stripped of what made us sisters or daughters or children. There was nothing that he could take from us—our genes, our bones, our wombs—that would ever satisfy him. There was no other way that we would be free.

One day, Rhine may understand the exact same words apply to Linden.

Next chapter, Rhine explains the details because the author understands her expected audience enough to know that they wouldn’t immediately think of Madame and Cecily having every reason to both hate this guy. Cecily admits that she’s not sure she could’ve gone through with it if the rapist was alive because he wouldn’t have wanted it. That is indeed yet another reason to be glad he’s dead.

Oh, also she only got outside by using a keycard she “blackmailed” off an attendant, because Cecily doesn’t get to move about on her own and as always, is a much bigger prisoner than Rhine. If you can think of a way Cecily could blackmail an attendant that doesn’t involve having sex with them, please tell me.

I think that nobody has ever believed what she could be capable of. All her life, nobody was listening.

Rhine often talks like she’s not actually in the scene, doesn’t she? I guess it’s part of the victims and witnesses thing, she just isn’t a relevant factor even to herself.

A nervous attendant bursts into the room, uncertain what to do as he explains the catastrophe with the Housemaster. Without a Housemaster and without a House Governor, there is no order to follow. We tell him that Vaughn has a living relative. A brother. We tell the attendant where he lives, how he can be reached.

“The girls inform the attendant of where their nearest male owner is.”

(We still do not know what housemaster or house governor mean.)

He can see in Cecily’s eyes that she’s the reason his brother is dead. Maybe he already knew she had it in her when he taught her how to pull a trigger.

While I guess I should be pleased the book did decently at setting this up, unlike pretty much everything else, this is really redundant. Cecily could have learned to shoot from Madame while Rhine was gone. Plus, this way makes it seem like Reed knew this might happen, and unlike Madame, his aid looks entirely self-serving. The worst thing his brother did to him was kick him out of the mansion.

Anyway, also Gabriel wakes up because Elle can do anything. He explains how he was caught: after knocking out Rhine, Evil Mad Scientist hung out until he came out, explained he was taking Rhine to fix her mysterious illness and he volunteered to come back too so they could be together, thus proving that he and Rhine are perfect together.

“I wanted to be rid of him,” he says. He raises my chin with his thumb. “But not if it meant being rid of you. I climbed in beside you, and you put your head in my lap. You can’t think I would have left you like that.”
“Look what it got you,” I say.
“Tea in bed and you here in front of me,” he says. “It was a terrible decision, and I confess I’d make it again.”

To rephrase, it caused Rhine to be dragged back after she escaped because now he had something to threaten her with.

They start making out but then suddenly she can smell the rapist on her bed and that kills the mood, though not for the right reason, so she rushes off with excuses about supper.

“It’s my fault that Linden’s dead,” I say. “He was in my seat. I don’t even know why I let him have it; the view terrified him.”

Well then maybe you shouldn’t have been shoved out of the way. Also, this is just a pathetic attempt at survivor’s guilt. There’s so much else going on to care about.

“He wouldn’t want you to feel this way,” Gabriel says. “I didn’t know him very well, but I’m sure of that.”
“It’s because he was better than me,” I say. “He never wanted to hurt anyone.

On the brighter side, at least she has one person in her life who’s comforting, instead of her psychotic brother telling her to just stop having feelings at him because it’s annoying and the rapist sad he can’t just fuck the complaints out of her.

Later a doctor shows up.

It turns out that there was never any rule about us staying on the property; that was something Vaughn devised to keep us contained. While we’re bound to confidentiality on penalty of execution, we are, as the official puts it, free to go where we please, provided we are here in time for our monthly flight.

So they’re just as evil, but lazier. Cecily, the only one ever on the ball, pops up to say she’s next in line for the study and secures a place. Later, Rowan asks why his scientist buddy hated Cecily so much, and Rhine says nonsense about jealousy his son liked her rather than the fact Evil Mad Scientist hated people who got out of place. She doesn’t go into detail because part of me doesn’t want to sully the image of his hero, because the fact is that we may all live beyond our expectancy because of that man. Fuck you, Rhine. She ends telling him she’ll tell the whole story eventually.

The next chapter is an unnecessary ending chapter. We’re a year forward, Cecily and Gabriel are in the study, they haven’t found anything in the basement and yet again Rhine repeats that it’s for the best to not know what happened, so they never make any real attempt to save Deirdre or any other girls.

Rowan understands what made Cecily pull the trigger. He’s made it clear that he’s on our side. But he still maintains that Vaughn, despite his destructions and downfalls, is the one who ultimately saved us. He resorted to drastic means because he was fulfilling his calling to save the world.

A moment when you can really see the two are related.

I still haven’t decided if the world can be saved

Definitely Rowan was the twin that got most of the oxygen, though.

Apparently the cure means that they’re thinking of opening the borders again, because ???????????????

Remembering the address for Grace’s Orphanage, I send word to Silas about the study. He shows up one year as the study’s newest participant, and he takes an immediate liking to my sister wife; every day she’s growing more into a woman, becoming something lovely and enchanting.

Oh god. Grace could’ve been saved – they must have wanted to try it on older subjects to see how late the cure could be administered and still work, and because older subjects would hit the fatal date and show if it works sooner. Madame’s whole carnival would’ve been a great test area given she keeps the place in lockdown and has a science background of her own. But Grace was used goods while Cecily’s just lightly used, practically new, so she’s the one who should end up with a boy six or seven years older. He deserves better than some whore, after all.

On the morning of my twenty-first birthday, though, I awaken with a feeling that the whole world is possible.
That’s the morning that Cecily bursts into my room with Linden’s sketch pad and tells me her greatest plan yet to keep Linden alive. She wants us to build one of his houses.
Every day, we’ve looked for ways to keep Linden alive. It’s especially important to do this for Bowen, who doesn’t remember. Cecily has an exceptional memory for detail; she can make stories of even small moments. She writes things down so that she won’t ever forget, and sometimes, late at night, she comes to my doorway unable to sleep, fearing that he’s slipping away from her, and we put our memories together—the way he held his sketch pad at an angle, and his small, frustrated sighs as he erased the lines, and how at a glance his hair was black, but then the sun made it bright with auburns. I remember the things she can’t, and in that way he’s still our husband, the thing that once did and always will bond us together.

It wouldn’t be the Chemical Garden series if there wasn’t this horribleness right up to the final chapter.

Once the house is built and Bowen is older, we’ll all travel. We’ll see the things we thought only existed in books. We’ll scale mountains and parachute from planes, and visit the river that has my name. Rowan believes our parents always meant for us to see it, that they knew it was out there waiting for us to find; it won’t be the way they intended, but we’ll get there. We’ll squeeze every second that we can from our lives, because we’re young, and we have plenty of years to grow. We’ll grow until we’re braver. We’ll grow until our bones ache and our skin wrinkles and our hair goes white, and until our hearts decide, at last, that it’s time to stop.

So in conclusion, the one and only bad thing in these books is science. The kidnapping and rape and murder are not things that need to be fixed to have a happy ending. Neither is the fact we’re ruled by a king, the entire government is based around lying to people to control them, and the there’s no reason to think the other countries want us getting anywhere near them.

So yeah, I really don’t think the author wanted to write this and just had to because she had to make her gothic romance a scifi dystopia, which meant she had to write out an explanation for her dystopia in the third book.

I maintain you could get a really good story out of this if you just edited it enough to make Rhine an unreliable narrator rather than 110% endorsed by the book. The setting is horrifying and her way of coping with it is just as awful, and as absurd as everything else is, the characters generally feel like real people if you look at their actions and not what Rhine says is going on.

Finally, while I was looking over the tumblr tags to see where the beautiful Linden rant would go, I found someone promoting a new novel called Perfection. It’s bred.

31 Comments

  1. Space Blizzard says:
    “I maintain you could get a really good story out of this if you just edited it enough to make Rhine an unreliable narrator rather than 110% endorsed by the book”

    I posit that a better approach would be to just remove Rhine entirely and make Cecily the protagonist.

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    1. Joe says:
      Rhine really is redundant, isn’t she? Jenna is better at doing everything the plot says should happen. She’s got nobody to go home to, no time left to spend, and a good reason to dislike Cecily. If everything Rhine did in Wither was done by Jenna, you would end up with a story about fighting back even when there’s no hope of success, because fuck you.

      She’d also be have much more reason to be at the Carneval, and would probably find Grace a kindred spirit. The disjointed nature of the second book would make sense, because she didn’t expect to make it out alive and needs to figure out where to go from here.

      She gradually comes to regret the way she treated Cecily, and when Vaughn comes and threatens to have her disappeared if Jenna doesn’t come back, she’ll go with him, realising that Cecily is the last person that even cares if she’s alive or dead.

      The third book starts with Jenna coming to understand Cecily, who for all her faults is a kind and considerate person who didn’t stop worrying about her despite being completely rejected.

      She is content to live out her days this way, until she comes across an opportunity to kill Vaughn and Linden, and has to decide between revenge (which will destroy Cecily’s stability and happiness) and just dying quietly (powerless and trapped, with no justice.)

      This is further complicated when Vaughn announces he’s almost finished the cure. The male and female virus are different and the required steps to fix them are widely known, but Vaughn has been working exclusively on the male cure since Linden’s gonna die and it’ll take another few years before he finishes the female cure, if he lives that long. After much deliberation, Jenna kills them both and burns the research, deciding that the hope of a cure isn’t worth the reality of Linden and men like him living for three times as long as women. After spending her last months in pain making the mansion self-sustaining and hoping Cecily will forgive her, Cecily comes to her on her deathbed and says that even though she wishes it didn’t happen, she understands why Jenna did it and doesn’t hate her. She spends her last moments dreaming a better world, and hoping Cecily gets to live in it. End.

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      1. Ember says:
        Well. *That’s* impressively heartbreaking.
        1
      2. Sazuka57 says:
        You should be a writer! This stuff is great!
  2. Ember says:
    “It’s bred.”

    Oh my God. Oh my God, and here I was all ready to celebrate that the nightmare was finally over.

    1. Farla says:
      there shall be no escape
  3. actonthat says:
    Holy fuck the plot of that Perfection book. What is wrong with people.
    1. Ember says:
      Oh God, what if Chemical Garden turns out to be the same kind of all-devouring trendsetter in YA that first Twilight and then Hunger Games were? Everything will be sex slavery. *Everything*.
      1. Farla says:
        Well, it’ll have to get into a cagefight with Hunger Games first. The resulting fusion might be worth it just for novelty’s sake.
        1
        1. Ember says:
          Hm. A fusion could either be actually glorious, new depths of terrible, or “pretty much still Wither except that things actually happen sometimes.”

          Eh, I guess any way you slice it, it’s better than The Genre of A Thousand Withers.

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          1. Farla says:
            Come to think of it, the first plot that comes to mind is “fight to the death, then the winner is raped” and that’d kind of what was already the plot of Hunger Games.

            Maybe something like, slum kids fight in elaborate deathmatches for the right to ascend to the higher levels, but it turns out to be some Darwinian thing to add healthy blood to the upper class. That seems worrying easy to twist into Linden-chan stuff where the upper class has no idea, though.

            1
    2. Farla says:
      In fairness we don’t yet know if it’s going to be a Wither-y take on it.

      Not yet.

      1. Ember says:
        I have to say, I’m kind of intrigued by the mention of “the historical underground railroad.” On the one hand, it is kind of fucking gross how they throw that in there as a marketing point along with the literary comparisons (which themselves are… not promising, to say the least). But it really leaves us with two possibilities: either unlike everything else we’ve seen so far this book actually has radicals who are painted in a positive light, or it’s exactly like everything else we’ve seen so far except that it’s *explicitly* saying that the people who ran the underground railroad were bad and wrong for breaking the law. Either way it’s bound to be interesting, in one sense or other of the word.
        1. Farla says:
          They could always do the bullshit copout of Unwind, where the people aren’t doing it for the right reasons or whatever.
          1. Ember says:
            Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant! That takes on a whole new level of Do Not Want when you’re actually namedropping the underground railroad.
            1
  4. Savanah says:
    You deserve a cookie, a thousand cookies for reading this to the bitter end!
  5. Maimh says:
    Open the borders? Do you seriously think the rest of the world is going to allow you and you freakish genetic code and horrible moral outlook to enter their countries? Honestly, by now I would suspect such a move would cause the rest of the world to seriously ponder to actually bomb the shit out of you.
    1
    1. Farla says:
      It’s okay, I don’t think we have enough tech to really launch an invasion. They’ll stick to just sniping anyone who ventures out.

      Oh, plot idea: hardcore activist groups from other countries trying to smuggle girls and kids past the border.

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      1. Ember says:
        I love that idea. Especially if they’re from, like, India. Great brown saviors of America.
  6. Izzy says:
    Oh, finally, finally, this shithole of a novel is over. Who’d have thought that Cecily would actually get to live to the end? No less be so awesome and shoot Vaughn <3
    Also, how squicky is this: "he takes an immediate liking to my sister wife; every day she’s growing more into a woman, becoming something lovely and enchanting." So.. the book remembers that she IS a kid after all?

    I have to say though, the last paragraph you quoted was beautifully written. Something about it just gave me feels. "We’ll grow until our bones ache and our skin wrinkles and our hair goes white, and until our hearts decide, at last, that it’s time to stop."

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    1. Zolnier says:
      Yeah the last paragraph is very pretty, honestly I’ve never heard old age sound so nice. As others have suggested the author would make an excellent ghost writer. Perhaps once her spirit is vanquished by the Charmed Ones she’ll be reincarnated and raised not to have horrifying views on everything. Good prose is too uncommon in YA fiction.

      Hey just a thought, is there anyone left with the expertise to APPLY the cure to people? Or is Bowen and everyone else but children sprung forth from Rhine’s perpetually virginal just fucked?

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      1. Farla says:
        Maybe she’ll reincarnate into the messiah of YA, unless things go wrong again this life and she leads us into the age of Wither forevermore.

        I think there are still doctors around, and they can do whatever the cure involves I guess? We were never actually told what the cure is. Just that figuring it out involved needles in the eye.

    2. Farla says:
      The book has been so weird about Cecily with Rhine saying every other page that she forgets Cecily is in fact just a kid or that Cecily seems like a kid but in fact is adult from her experiences.
  7. Sazuka57 says:
    …That had to be the most worst everything. The most worst plot; the most worst climax….was there even a climax?? I didn’t see one, honestly. Not to mention that the ending didn’t resolve….ANYTHING. They didn’t even solve sickness! It just ended with Rhine and her bro having a cure in them that MIGHT work but we won’t know until a couple of more years! Seriously, this plot is the most worst. Good on you for being able to get through it.
    1. Person says:
      To be fair, Rhine did wake up on the morning of her 21st birthday, which the narration implies is not this morning.
      1. Sazuka57 says:
        Doesn’t make it any less of the most worst plot. I have so many problems with the ending alone, let alone the rest of the plot. I also still stand beside the point that there was no climax.
      2. Farla says:
        Unfortunately, we were told the existing cures can get up to age 30, they’re just not universal. It’s like the author added that bit in there for no reason but to make a plot hole here.
    2. Farla says:
      They totally did because Rhine said Evil Mad Scientist wasn’t actually evil therefore his cure works, DUH. That is how science works.
  8. Liz Ellor says:
    So after reading through these sporks, I went to check out the author’s blog . . . on which I found a number of reblogged posts about feminism and the importance of ending rape culture. Along with a lot of denouncement of her ‘haters’. And teenage fans saying her books inspired them and changed their lives.

    Frankly, I don’t get it. I’m a writer and a feminist myself. I’m not writing tracts on gender studies. I’m writing fantasy novels. I’m not suggesting Ms. Destefano should have written an ideological tract . . . but shouldn’t she at least have realized how utterly terrible the message in these books is? Didn’t she give it to trusted beta readers who pointed out that she’s writing rape apologia? I’ve had people point out to me, for example, that I killed a female character only to create angst for a male one. So I looked at it, realized they were right, and changed it. If you want to do something about rape culture, then don’t write a book where rape is okay under certain circumstances, because your book becomes part of culture! You’re promoting the thing you say is bad!

    1. Farla says:
      I can actually see that, as weird as it first seems.

      The books seem to get that the way women is treated by men is horrible, they’re just incredibly defeatist to the point of acceptance about it.

      She may also have become more interested in the subject after having this sort of idea, so she’s now approaching more normal feminism. Most stuff doesn’t directly address that it’s also not feminist to tie yourself in knots to insist that it’s totally not rape because he didn’t know you didn’t say yes, so I can see how she wouldn’t even see a contradiction.

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