Monday, January 31, 2011

REVIEW: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium (Delirium #1)
by Lauren Oliver
Releases on 02.01.2011
440 pages
Source: NetGalley for Review


Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
(from GoodReads)

REVIEW:  Ever wanted to wipe a guy from your mind because he shattered your heart so soundly?

In Lena’s world, you can.  However, like all small blessings, it comes with a catch, and it’s a biggie.

Lena lives in a future United States where a group called the ‘Consortium’ has taken over.  In true dystopian fashion, the government, not individuals, make all major life decisions for citizens, including place of post-secondary education, profession and spouse.  Lauren Oliver creates a future U.S. with beautiful, descriptive language, and sometimes you get lost in the loveliness and the originality of the sentences, especially when she writes comparisons.  That being said, I found it difficult to ‘sink into’ this novel at first.  When we first meet Lena, she is about to turn 18 and full of anxiety about her future.  Because of this, Lena is an extremely introspective character, and at times, I think I would have liked some more dialogue or action to break it up a bit, but then Oliver would come out with a completely amazing sentence that would make me reread it with pleasure. 

Lena's world is SUPER circumscribed, and this is where Oliver’s novel really differs from other dystopian reads for me: Lena’s world never feels safe, not even at first.  Yes, she was told her world was safe, orderly and protected, but I never got that feeling.  I was creeped out from the beginning by how regimented her life was: early curfews, absolutely no contact with boys who weren’t family or cured yet, and the constant reminders that if you are suspected of doing anything that smacks of civil disobedience, you will get a one-way to ticket to death or hell on earth.  The government certainly has covered its tracks with the mother of all PR campaigns in Delirium; everything, from the Bible to national history to current events, has been rewritten.  At times, it felt like something akin to Nazi Germany.

Lena's insecurities as a young woman are poignant and familiar.  However, she mentions them enough times to make me think of other contemporary characters who also are self-deprecating.  She feels that doesn’t measure up in the looks department and is nothing very special.  Here family also lacks in social status and her legal last name is a burden because of the shady past of her parents.  Because of these things, she actually is grateful for the procedure and her government’s system – it ensures she’ll have a place in the community and have someone in her life, albeit one who is chosen for her, not by her.  You get the feeling that Lena isn’t happy to get the procedure so she can dodge the love sickness, but so she can escape her memories and feelings about the past. 

She didn’t count on meeting Alex, who is a marvelous example of a loving, brave, and selfless guy (he’s my new lit crush).  Alex has a few secrets of his own, and they both broaden Lena’s horizons and endanger her future at the same time.  Oliver’s writing really shines at its best during the beautiful moments shared between Lena and Alex.  I won’t spoil anything here, but let’s just say I said, “Ahhhhh,” and “ Awww,” several times.  Outloud.

I have to admit, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the premise.  Who wants to get rid of love?  Sure, it’s really inconvenient at times, but capable of being a national threat?  No.  And then I realized the catch.  Remember the old saying, “It’s a thin line between love and hate?”  It’s a thin line between a lot of different emotions: love, hate, passion, anger, etc., and all these different feelings provoke strong actions.  Take away the ability to feel those emotions, and what sort of person do you have?  A damn boring one who won’t cause trouble.  This isn’t spelled out in Delirium, but I have seen this comment in a few reviews and wanted to add in my two-cents. 

While I struggled to get into the first third, I couldn't stop reading the second half.  Lena really develops in it and creates her own beautiful world within the one she has to live in.  I hope we learn more about what circumstances the Consortium came to power under in book two, and gain more insight into what kind of world Lena is truly living in.  I wish I had more background context for this book as I think it would have helped me get into it a bit earlier, but I will say that once I was hooked, I stayed that way.  The world in Delirium is a refreshing, new dystopia we have not yet seen before with an original premise - a truly fascist, threatening government right from the start with a paranoid population in which a forbidden love flourishes and a young woman starts to find out what she is really made of.  I think once we know more about the the reasons behind the premise and understand more about the world outside of Lena's immediate frame-of-reference, we will have a wholly satisfying trilogy in our hands.

Quotes (please note that these are from an unpublished e-galley and may not reflect changes in the final print copy):

"You know you can't be happy unless you're unhappy, sometimes, right?" she whispers, and her voice is hoarse, as though she's just been crying.

He's speaking in the kind of voice that everyone uses when they are about to break you apart.  Gentle - kind, even - like they can make the news sound better just by speaking in a lullaby voice. . . like you won't somehow hear the violence underneath.

It strikes me how small everything is, our whole world, everything with meaning - our stores and our raids and our jobs and our lives, even.  Meanwhile, the world just goes on the same as always, night cycling into day and back into night, an endless circle; seasons shifting and reforming like a monster shaking off its skin and regrowing it again.

Love: a single world, a wispy thing, no bigger or longer than an edge.  That's what it is: an edge; a razor.  it draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two.  Before and after.  the rest of the world falls away on either side.


  1. Great review. The concept of a world without love is scary and so sad. Love this book and was surprised at how emotional it was :)

  2. Awesome review, Linds! I loved this book, and I think it was in large part because of how Lena developed as a character when the plot picked up. I definitely can't wait for book two :)

  3. Really beautiful and thorough review as always Linds, I felt much the same way about this one! The first third I really wasn't all that impressed and wondered why the book was so hyped, but then when the relationship with Alex progressed I couldn't put it down and by the end I was a emotional mess:) Love reading your thoughts on books I've read!

  4. @Nic The book was emotional for when she started giving us tidbits of her mother and when she interacted with Gracie - those were great moments. And, of course, Alex!

    @Melissa The plot def picked up as Lena developed - I certainly will be picking up Pandemonium - have to see what happens next, esp. after that OMG of a cliffhanger!!

    @Jenny Yes, we are twin readers, my dear! Don't what happened exactly once we were pass the first third, but then, click! Light turned on! Me too, on your Alex comment! Adored him!


  5. Great review. I can't wait to read this book. I loved her first book so I hope this one is just as good. I love that last's wonderfully expressed with an eloquence I could never manage.

  6. I feel like I know this book so intimately now. I've read plenty of reviews for it, but have yet to actually read the book.

    I can't get over how strikingly similar Delirium sounds to Matched, and that is perhaps why I have been avoiding it. I don't think I questioned the circumstances in which the Matched society came to be thoroughly enough, but reflecting back, I got that same sense, that the background context was lacking.

    You have read both, yes?

  7. @Lisa I do love the quotes - sometimes I'd just look at a particular passage and say, "Wow!"

    @Missie I did read both, but they didn't have the same feeling to me. I don't think Lena has the same self-confidence that Cassia has - just a gut feeling based on the way I read the characters - Cassia was looking forward to her future because she felt good about it; Lena was looking forward to her procedure because, IMO, she wanted to escape the past. Cassia's world also feels like they really take care of their citizens, at least initially - I never got that feeling with Lena's world. Delirium simply felt darker to me. Different tone.


  8. Yay for review twins! I totally agree with you - Alex is infinitely crush-worthy ;) I did struggle a little bit with the beginning, but somewhere around 100 pages I started FLYING through it. One of those things where I tried to hold back but couldn't! I can't wait for Pandemonium because, omg, that ending? I almost hucked my copy across the room! I have to know what's going to happen next.

    Emma @ girl loves books

  9. I really like the way you justified the premise because I, too, have seen a couple reviews doubting it. I felt similarly about it but you were able to phrase it much better than I could have... so yeah, great review, obviously! :)

  10. Hi Linda, this book sounds like it has a very intriguing premise! Controlling love -- yikes! ;-)

    Anywho, thanks for dropping by Darkeva's :-)


  11. Nice review! I enjoyed reading your review even though I didn't enjoy reading the book. I'm glad you're back again. :)

    I can see why the government would want people to have the emotion removed, but I can't really see why people would get on board with that. I just can't see the majority of people lining up for something like that.

    I do agree with you about Lena's motivations though. I think you're spot on about her wanting to escape her past and position in life.

  12. Nice review! I adored this book. Especially since its about love!!!

  13. @Emma YES!! That was exactly it for me! First 100 pages, I was like, "Ehhhhh?" And after that I was like, "Ahhhhhh!!!!" And then I was like, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! FREAKING CLIFFHANGER!!!!!"

    @Darkeva Thank you for stopping by, as well!

    @SR Aww, thanks - it's good to be back! Yeah, I agree with you there. I think we have a lot of unswered questions, so I am hoping more background info comes out in the next book. I think once I have the ability to reason with the premise, I will enjoy the overall story arc a whole lot more. I did enjoy this book once I got into it, but that is a big piece of the puzzle I need to enjoy it.

    @Savy Yay! We shall be twins then, when book 2 comes out :)

  14. I just finished Before I Fall, so I'm happy to see your review of Oliver's latest: Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. My review of Before I Fall comes out tomorrow, and we seem to share an affinity for Harper Lee and Carson McCullers - they're both on my 10's list today!

  15. I just finished reading this one and I was a bit disappointed. The loved the premise of the book, but I felt it was a bit contrived and predictable. I couldn't buy into the romance, which is probably why the last 2/3 was a bit slow for me. I always find it fascinating how different people have different points of view on a book. I am, however, looking forward to the other books in this series.

  16. Hi
    Just finished Delirium, it's a very thought provoking book. Enjoyed your review.
    The concept reminded me a little of the Stepford Wives or even the Bodysnatchers.
    I didn't understand why some people, who had had the procedure, still retained certain elements of their character - like the security guard who seemed particularly 'mean' - wouldn't the procedure have wiped out those sort of tendencies as well?
    Looking forward to number two.