All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Delirium – Lauren Oliver

on November 19, 2010

In the world Lena is born into, in Portland sometime in the future, love is considered a disease. Amor deliria nervosa is considered an illness but thankfully for the citizens, there is a cure. And the cure is mandatory. Occuring sometime around the 18th birthday, each member of the controlled population undergoes a ‘procedure’ which isn’t ever described, but involves cutting into the brain. Lena is 17 and all she is preoccupied with is getting though her Evaluation, where the powers that be assess your interests, intelligence, etc and issue you 4 potential matches, which you then rank in order of preference. You are then issued your ‘pair’ or ‘match’ and that’s who you shall marry and spend your life with, after your procedures take place, or after college if the Evaluator’s decide you may attend.

On the day of Lena’s Evaluation, she has all the answers prepared but she’s tanking badly as things she shouldn’t be saying keep coming out her mouth. She doesn’t want to be like her mother, who couldn’t be ‘cured’ even after 3 procedures and ended up committing suicide, which brings shame and suspicion and derision. To escape the wishes of the powers that be, to be labelled a resistor or a sympathizer with the rebels that still live in the Wilds, outside the fences of the controlled, approved cities, is punishable by execution at worst or at best, confinement into the Crypt, the overrun prison. Lena doesn’t want to end up unstable like her mother, so she is stunned when she cannot prevent some answers of how she really thinks (which would not be Evaluator approved) coming out of her mouth.

Thankfully for Lena during her Evaluation, the rebels stage some sort of protest and in the confusion, all the Evaluations are re-scheduled. But not before Lena sees a boy up on the observation deck over her Evaluation room, laughing at the protest. She is fascinated by him and when she runs into him again and again, she cannot fight a growing teenage attraction, a desire to spend time with him and live her life before the procedure renders her ‘content’ and ‘blank’ forever.

Alex is not interested in being ‘safe’ or ‘content’ or ‘cured’. He comes from a different place and he knows things that Lena doesn’t. The two of them move sneakily around the town, snatching time together whenever they can, trying to make the most of what they have before Lena’s procedure. But time is running out and Alex has a solution.

I read Lauren Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall and had mixed feelings about it so it was with a little bit of wariness that I started Delirium. The idea itself I think is a nice new twist on a dystopian society – blaming love for all the wars and crime that existed and seeking to eradicate love, and therefore, create a so-called happier, more content and even-tempered society. The thing that I found so infinitely disturbing about the world in Delirium is that the procedure doesn’t just ‘cure’ a person’s ability to love romantically, as in be in love with someone. It basically wipes out your capacity to love at all which means that after the procedure you won’t love your parents, your best friend since Kindergarten, your brothers/sisters, or even the children you later have. Now that was something terrifying and not like anything I’ve ever read before. Lena has only ever been told that she was loved by her mother, the mother that couldn’t be cured. Since her mothers death and her then growing up under the care of her cured aunt and uncle, she doesn’t hear that forbidden word again until Alex speaks it, reciting a poem (and she doesn’t know what poetry is either, it having been banned). The word itself is banned but also unnecessary in the society. There’s just no reason to utter it as people don’t feel love for anything – not their favourite foods, the beach, their chosen match, their children, nothing. That to me sounds like an absolutely vile and horrible way to live and as mentioned in the book, ‘how can you ever know if you’re truly happy, if you’re never unhappy as well?’

I liked this novel a lot more than Before I Fall. I enjoyed Lena as a character – her struggle to be ‘good’, to be raised ‘right’. Having been raised by a mother who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be cured, for the first six or so years of her life, and then having to face the shame of having a mother that had committed suicide, have her name tainted, she is desperate to just have her procedure, go to college and make a good match and be content. It’s almost a desperation to redeem herself for her mother’s ‘sins’. No more emotions, no more up and down, life will just be good. But then she meets Alex, and even though he is like an eye opener for her, he really just helps reinforce what she seems to already know deep down inside. That maybe this isn’t the best way to live and that maybe, just maybe, the government hasn’t exactly been telling them the truth about everything And even as she thinks this, she is struggling to rid herself of the confusing feelings she has for Alex and even still then she has flashes of her ‘training’ (brainwashing) where she says that she almost wishes she never met him, or that she can’t wait for the procedure to smooth things out for her. It’s a wonderful and fully believeable internal struggle of a teenage girl who is doing the most natural thing in the world, falling in love,  but has been programmed to believe that love is just a disease, an illness that is undesirable and can and will be cured permanently.  But eventually Lena comes to realise fully just how horrible that it would be to live as almost a bot with no real feelings for anything or anyone.

I really enjoyed this book and the ending, although I expected it, still really upset me. I do think that actually, it was kind of the perfect ending for this novel, even though it is not the ending I really wanted! But I noticed earlier on Goodreads when I was preparing to write this review that this is the first of the Delirium trilogy and I’m really glad that they’re are going to be two more books. I definitely think that although it could’ve ended here and now, there’s still so much of Lena’s story left for us to find out. I cannot wait to learn more in the future books.

A thought-provoking, well written story. It’s the kind of book I think would be great for a book club, or even for a school related project because the discussion topics are numerous and so involved.


Book #94 of my 100 Book Challenge

This novel fits nicely into the YA Dystopian Challenge, hosted over at Bart’s Bookshelf by Darren. Darren has also reviewed Delirium for this challenge and you can check out his wonderful review here. This is the 7th novel I’ve completed for this challenge.

****I received this novel as an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Delirium will be published on the 1st of February 2011 by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins.

6 responses to “Delirium – Lauren Oliver

  1. Wow — not a book I would normally pick up, but it does sound strangely fascinating. I like a good dystopian novel, and this might be an interesting foray into that world.

  2. Ooooh I have never heard of this one but it sounds really good. I will definitely have to pick it up.

  3. RandomizeME says:

    I wasn’t really into Dystopian books before, but since I’ve started reading a couple, I’ve noticed that a lot of them are actually well written (and not just a gimmick) with good world building (And really horrible but thought provoking futures – lol). And geared to young adults or young readers for some reason. Pretty interesting.

    • The trend does seem very strong towards YA books. I’ve read 1 or 2 adult-geared novels but the majority are definitely YA and you’re right – a lot of the time the world building is really rich and detailed and some of the things these authors come up with are so frightening – like in this one that there could be a ‘cure’ for all love so that you never feel that sort of emotion for anyone or anything. That terrifies me.

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