Review of Delirium, by Lauren Oliver.
Quickie: Emotional and devastating. Basically, read it.
Full: Lena Haloway is haunted by her mother. She has fond memories of her mother, but she's not entirely sure she's allowed to be thinking of her mother like that- after all, her mother was sick. Very sick. She had the delirium. Those fond memories are chock full of illegal things- singing, dancing, hugs that lasted too long, touching... love. That terrible sickness that kills people. It killed her mother. She was so full of the sickness that she walked right off a cliff and fell into her watery grave.
Lena's adopted her aunt's last name, Tiddle, because it was easier, and it helped to cleanse her family (at least a tiny little bit) from the touch of her mother's illness. An unofficial last name doesn't change the fact that all of Portland already knows the story, and it certainly doesn't help get rid of Lena's nightmares.
All Lena wants is to have the operation. Everybody gets the operation sooner or later, usually on or around their 18th birthday. It's all Lena can think about; being safe from the disease forever. She likes to follow rules and not push people, she likes to keep her nose clean and play it safe. She's seen what happens to people who don't play it safe, and it's no fate she wants.
Things start to change for Lena when her best friend, Hana, convinces her to sneak out and attend an illegal party. There's music the likes of which she could never have imagined. There are people touching without fear. It's all amazing and surreal for Lena. But it's too much. This is wrong.
But if it's so wrong, why did it feel so good? Why did everyone look so happy, so full of life? Why do all the cured people seem so lifeless?
Then there's Alex, a boy who works in the labs where Lena has her evaluation. He's cured, so it's okay to talk to him, and he starts hanging out occasionally (usually out of the public's eye) with Hana and Lena. But Alex has a secret that will change Lena's life forever. In fact, it will change Lena herself forever.
Delirium is one of those books that has a lot of buildup. Not a bad thing, it just means that the world is complex and you have to be familiar with it to truly appreciate the story. My problem wasn't so much with the buildup, but with the slow pace that we saw through most of the book. It took me about a week to read Delirium, which is a pretty long time for me. It wasn't that I was uninterested or that the writing was bad or any of that. But it wasn't hard for me to set down and I wasn't dying to pick it back up.
That said, I really did like it. Now that the world has been established and the story has gotten interesting, I want to read the next installment. If you had asked me if I planned to read Pandemonium when I was half-way through I would have said, "Meh. Maybe." Now though, it's a resounding "Yes."
Lena's personality and viewpoint was understandable and relatable. Her character development was great; I felt like she really grew as a character and she surprised me with her pluck. It was a bit drawn out at times when she was busy figuring things out and analyzing everything, but overall I liked her and I liked seeing things from her point of view.
Alex and Lena's relationship moved at a believable and natural pace, which I appreciated. I liked that she didn't fall head-over-heels in love with him at first sight. I liked that she was a bit insecure and didn't just assume that she deserved his love. She questioned his motives and her own, and I was glad to see it.
In sum, I liked the book and would recommend it to folks who enjoy dystopian novels that make you think.
4 out of 5 stars.
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