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About The Book

Time is running out for Rhine in the conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.

With time ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed, and she takes refuge in his dilapidated house. However, the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and on the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

By Lauren DeStefano

Prereading Questions

1. To what extent would you go to save a loved one?

2. What does the title of the final book in DeStefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy suggest about the plot?

Discussion Questions

1. When the story opens, Rhine is in the hospital and is being visited by her husband, Linden, and her sister wife, Cecily. Why is she in the hospital?

2. Who is Reed and why does Linden suggest Rhine stay with him for a while?

3. Compare and contrast Cecily’s relationship with Linden and Rhine’s relationship with him. Would you say, or do you think, that Rhine is jealous of Cecily?

4. Is Cecily a good mother? Why or why not? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

5. Describe Reed’s house and the mood the description evokes in the reader. Identify words in the story that the writer uses to create this mood.

6. How does Reed’s house contrast with Vaughn’s house? How does this contrast contribute to the mood?

7. What role does Reed’s airplane play in the story?

8. Why does Vaughn come for Cecily? What power does Vaughn hold over her?

9. Why do Linden and Rhine rush Cecily to the hospital? How does the author create tension in this scene? Identify passages and/or dialogue that help build this tension.

10. Why does Reed wonder if Vaughn knows that the Ellerys are Rhine’s parents? How does he assist Rhine?

11. What does Rhine learn about her brother? Why is she unsettled by his work? Why does she decide that she has to find him?

12. How does Linden’s attitude toward his father change and why?

13. Linden, Cecily, and Rhine pass through Madame’s carnival on their way to find Rowan. When they are taken to Madame, what do they learn about her connection with Linden and Rose? How does the writer create a more sympathetic character in Madame in the final volume of the trilogy?

14. How does Rhine find her brother? Describe the scene in which they first come together. How does the author use dialogue to evoke emotion when they reunite?

15. What surprise is in store for Rhine when she is reunited with her brother? How does she manage the shock?

16. Where does Vaughn fly Rhine and Rowan? Why? What does Rhine discover about this place?

17. Why does Rhine return to the mansion with Vaughn? What does she learn about Gabriel?

18. Why does Cecily believe that Vaughn plans to murder her?

19. After Rhine learns the truth about Vaughn and his relationship with Rowan, Rowan says to her, “I’ve always worried about you. It’s dangerous to become attached to anyone in our world. To trust anyone.” Does this statement accurately describe Rhine? Why or why not? Is Rowan as stoic as he presents himself? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

20. How are Rhine and Gabriel reunited?

Questions for Further Discussion

1. In the first two books in the Chemical Garden Trilogy, Vaughn is determined to keep Rhine prisoner and/or hunt her down. How does he change in the third installment? What contributes to this change? For what reason does the author make this change?

2. When Rhine learns that her brother is still alive, she insists on finding him. How has he changed since they were separated? How has Rhine changed? Are they able to reconcile their torn relationship?

3. How does Linden feel about Rhine? Is the feeling mutual? Explain. How is Linden similar to and different from his father?

4. What happens to Linden? How does Rhine deal with this loss?

5. DeStefano uses imagery to create a dystopian world. Identify two examples of strong imagery and explain what they contribute to the story.

6. By the end of the trilogy, the reader gains a clearer understanding of Vaughn’s scientific mission. Is Vaughn good or evil? Explain and support your answer with evidence from the text.

7. How does Cecily grow throughout the story? What contributes to her maturity? How do her feelings change toward Vaughn and why?

8. Does Vaughn love his son and grandson? Support your answer with textual evidence. Does the story have a satisfying ending? Why or why not?

9. What does Rhine learn about her parents and how does this information change her?

Guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

This guide, written to align with the Common Core State Standards ( has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

© 2011 Ali Smith

Lauren DeStefano is the author of The Internment Chronicles and the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden trilogy, which includes Wither, Fever, and Sever. She earned her BA in English with a concentration in creative writing from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (December 31, 2013)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442409101
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99
  • Lexile ® HL730L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

A “harrowing debut . . . DeStefano has an observant and occasionally pitiless eye, chronicling the cruelties, mercies, and inconsistencies of her young characters. . . . It will be intriguing to see how DeStefano develops [the larger world] as this promising trilogy progresses.”

– PW, starred review

"Creepy and elegant, shocking and romantic, dreadful and rewarding, and delivers unexpected twists. It'll leave you longing for book two."

– Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of the WAKE trilogy and CRYER'S CROSS

“Lauren DeStefano crafts an all too believable future. I loved the world, the romance, the writing -- exactly the kind of book I've been craving to read.”

– Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH

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More books from this author: Lauren DeStefano

More books in this series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy