Sever: The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 3



Lackluster end to mature, excessively mopey series.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Like the rest of the trilogy, Sever shows what could happen when society breaks down, and could spark discussion about authors' many visions of dystopia. It could also provoke discussion of medical ethics.

Positive messages

There's a lot here about the ethics of human experiments. Can they be justified on unwilling or unknowing subjects if the end result is a cure for a disease that has brought down civilization? Would you allow handfuls of others to suffer to save just one person you loved?

Positive role models

In the previous trilogy installments, Wither and Fever, Rhine struggles desperately for her freedom, but she lacks that resolve in Sever. But she does make a selfless choice and supports those close to her. Vaughn, the villain who manipulates everyone, shows a little more heart here but not enough to make anything he's done acceptable.


Two significant characters die and another has a life-threatening late miscarriage that's well described, including talk of what the fetus would have looked like at that stage. Buildings are bombed in protest, guns are fired, and experiments are done on humans with needles in the eyes and drugging. There's talk of past experiments that caused sad deaths of those close to the main character and a virus that killed off others. The dystopian society is caused by a virus that kills off everyone by age 25, age 20 for women.


A few kisses. Rhine returns to the brothel from Fever and recalls her forced, drugged performances there (short of sex). Talk of the other girls who still work there.


Very mild and not beyond "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Reed smokes and gets yelled at by Cecily for smoking around her child. Some characters get sleeping pills in their food. Rhine gets drugged for a procedure and recalls being forcefully drugged in Fever.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Sever is the conclusion of the dystopian Chemical Garden Trilogy for mature teens, which began with Wither. The sexual content isn't as high as the second book, Fever, where the main character was forced to "perform" at a brothel (short of sex) but there are still plenty of adult themes. A teen character has a late miscarriage (described) and the loss is heavily mourned. Two significant characters die violently, and there's lots of talk about others dying all around them -- society has broken down because a virus kills off everyone by age 25. The experiments conducted on humans to cure the virus (some described) could lead to a thought-provoking discussion on medical ethics.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Recovering in the hospital from fever and infection, Rhine is almost back where she started when she ran away from her forced marriage to Linden to find her twin brother. Linden and his other wife Cecily -- 14 and pregnant a second time -- are at her bedside trying to understand the accusations Rhine makes against Linden's father; that he's using everyone as test subjects to find a cure for the virus that kills every \"new generation\" by age 25 -- 20 for women. Cecily is determined not to return to Vaughn's clutches, and they hide out at Vaughn's estranged and eccentric brother's house. That's where Rhine hears word that her twin is alive and starting a movement to bomb all research hospitals looking for a virus cure. When the trail finally leads to her brother, Rhine is surprised by his true motives.

Is it any good?


Yes, Book 1 was pretty provocative, but the intrigue had already fizzled out by Book 2; Book 2 was a rehash of Book 1, and now SEVER spends most of its time wallowing in Books 1 and 2. And moping. And reminiscing. And mourning.

There's so much time spent in the main character's head, moping and mourning, that there's no chance for the book to go anywhere except where they've all been before. (Did they really have to go back to the carnival brothel?) After three books, readers deserve a fuller picture of the dystopian world the author creates. Instead, you get some puzzling truces and sudden deaths to tie up the trilogy a little too conveniently.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the conclusion of the Chemical Garden Trilogy. Did you find it satisfying? Would you seek out another series like it? If so, what appeals to you about it? The dystopian setting? The provocative themes?

  • What other dystopian novels have you read? How is each author's vision different? How is it the same?

  • Do you feel for Vaughn, just as Rhine begins to? Do you think he's justified to experiment on humans without their consent? Do you understand why he decided to do it?

Book details

Author:Lauren DeStefano
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:February 12, 2013
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

This review of Sever: The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 3 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide