Series: Delirium Trilogy 1
Genre: YA, Sci-fi, Dystopia, Romance
Published: February 2011
When I read about this book and its intriguing plot, I knew I HAD to read it! A world where love is considered a disease you can be cured from (at the age of 18), is definitely original, and makes sense somehow -in a very scary way. Is it really for the best, to live a steady life without the dangers of falling in love and having your heart broken?
Because it’s not just a loveless marriage that lies ahead. Passions for all kinds of hobbies vanish, friendship suffers due to lack of feeling and memories, even having children (which in some cases may lead to detachment) is merely a sense of duty.
Details like the passages and psalms from the ‘Book of Shhh’ and old children’s rhymes that were adapted to this society’s view on LOVE, give the story more depth. These aspects were funny in a gruesome way, realistic in completing the rules many of us live by through the Bible.
From the start, the author convincingly conveys the detached, loveless feel that radiates from the society Lena Holoway lives in. A steady and predictable life where nothing is left to chance, awaits Lena in just a couple of months. I totally believed the importance of the BIG, defining test day; no matter how ridiculous the idea of an entire civilization based on test results playing matchmaker might seem.
Although… the idea isn’t that quaint at all. Don’t many people nowadays find their match by means of personality tests on dating sites through the internet? Apparently chemistry doesn’t play a big part anymore after a certain age, whereas compatible character traits do.
Back to the book though ;)
The narrating in the first person is very realistic and makes you feel like you are Lena completely. My first fear of reading yet another book in the first person subsided swiftly though, because it’s finally used proper here. For example: flashbacks are written in tense past, which gives the book natural feel. Lauren Oliver has a way of describing thoughts and feelings impeccably: you experience Lena’s confusion, the moments her brain turns into a big blur are excruciatingly vivid, the doubts she has are comprehendible, as well as the shock she experiences when things happen she never even knew existed (and have been taught to be literally deadly wrong). You become Lena with all her hopes, doubts and fears.
Lena certainly isn’t a flat character, as is her best friend Hana. The way Lena and Hana change, the way Lena sees Hana, the way it affects their friendship… Extremely well written, real, recognizable and relatable. I don’t think I’ve encountered any character lately I felt so close to as I do to Lena.
Normally I love my books to be as descriptive as possible, with character depth as well. Where this book lacks descriptiveness in the ‘exterior’ department (surroundings, houses, people), it makes up for emotions. I can honestly say I didn’t miss the descriptiveness. The story reads away easily and totally envelopes you, on the other hand it sure takes its sweet time to develop... Some passages drag on with minor details, unimportant to the story. Other details of Lena’s life make the story so much more alive: the way Lena feels when running for example with the happiness washing over her and the connection she shares with Hana in those moments, they all made me feel like I was there. They made me want to go out running myself, whereas I LOATHE running! (Lauren Oliver would be very good at writing subliminal messages, LOL…)
Here’s an example of the beautiful, descriptive staccato writing Lauren Oliver uses sometimes. SO recognizable how one thought triggers another! (Although I have to admit she lost me entirely with some sentences, going on and on, comma after comma, until I lost track...)
It took over 100 pages for the romance to even begin -be it VERY modest- at the second (accidental) meeting Lena has with Alex, which was a far too lengthy and unnecessary time to do the world building and preparations in my opinion. But Alex was worth the wait. The author doesn’t fill in many gaps with background info, she makes you find out things through Lena. Very naturally their romance develops, Lena resisting at first because it feels wrong to her. I admire her strength for being able to withstand the temptation, her desire to hold on to what she’s been taught to be the right thing to do. Perhaps logical because she also fears what’s happening to her, and what will become of her. But when the truth turns out to be a huge lie, and the lies turn out to be the truth, it’s like Lena turns around completely. Her character growth feels natural, as well as understandable. Once she finds out what really happened to her mother, her last step to becoming one of the ‘sympathizers’ of LOVE, is made.‘Snapshots, moments, mere seconds: as fragile and beautiful and hopeless as a single butterfly, flapping on against a gathering wind.’
The city surrounded by heavily guarded electrified borders to keep ‘infected’ people from ‘The Wilds’ entering (’Invalids’ they’re called, though their existence is denied and silenced by the people in charge); ‘The Crypts’ where sympathizers, infected people and everyone else endangering society are literally left to rot and die; the raids sweeping over the city once every while: all gruesome details of the story bringing it to life. People trying to escape by climbing the borders, while big men with guns and dogs chase after them, helicopters circle around them, chaos breaking loose: very strong reminders of actual escape-images regarding the border separating East- from West Germany for many years. Terrifyingly realistic. Very exciting. Movie-worthy even...
Without wanting to give away too much about the ending, I still want to share my thoughts with you. The turn the book took towards the ending, was the way I hoped it would go. It simply had to be that way, otherwise there wouldn’t be a happy ending for Lena. Unfortunately the book didn’t end then… Lena got her wish, or did she?
‘Delirium’ has left me desperate to know what happened and is going to happen. Love is the drug, but it’s also the cure. But is love enough to survive? Are memories enough, once reality hits?
I will most definitely be reading the sequel ‘Pandemonium’, because I’m not ready to abandon Lena and Alex. How can I, when I’ve actually become Lena?