Delirium by Lauren Oliver is the first book in a new trilogy. I received an electronic advance copy through NetGalley and read it on my Sony Reader.
About the Book:
In Lena’s sheltered, contained world, love is a disease: amor deliria nervosa, to be precise. Fortunately, there’s a cure, which everyone is required to receive when they turn eighteen. For Lena, that’s only a few months away, and she can’t wait. Sure, people lose a little of their old selves in the process, and true, sometimes the procedure causes long-term damage, but those side effects and risks are worth it to be guaranteed immunity, and with it stability, safety, and happiness. As school wraps up, Lena is eagerly anticipating the coming events: the final examination that will decide her future, her pairing with the boy she’ll marry, and finally, her cure.
But as the date of her procedure looms, Lena begins to experience things she’s been taught all her life were bad. As good and bad swap places and Lena’s world gets flipped upside down, Lena must decide where she will stand.
I’ll admit, Delirium started a little slowly. There’s a lot of waiting for something to happen, watching Lena go about her daily life, learning the rules that bind her and everyone else in Portland, where she lives. I was interested in the social structure, beliefs, and rules of this other United States, and Oliver certainly created a fascinating world, but I wasn’t especially hooked on the story. I guessed a couple of plot points easily–always a bit disappointing.
Then, about half way through, the story took off. Where the first half took me a week of occasional reading to get through, I polished off the second half over the course of about 24 hours. I didn’t know what would happen next. Oliver has a way of writing Lena’s emotions so that you experience them yourself. By the final pages of the novel, I couldn’t tear my eyes away, my heart in my throat, desperate to know what would happen. The last time I had that feeling was when I read Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. (I’m not saying this series is the next Hunger Games–that remains to be seen–only that the riveted feeling produced by each was similar!)
Each chapter began with a quote from some document from Lena’s world: a nursery rhyme, The Book of Shh, a medical study, a guide for people receiving the cure, a website of banned words and ideas. These, especially, were clever, I thought, and very useful for building a world around Lena’s story. They gave Lena a context, set her within a larger society, so that I could better understand her beliefs and reactions. They provided glimpses of the larger world, often rare with a first person narrative.
Some have said the romance aspect felt too much like the rest of the YA novels out there at present, that Lena was too needy, too attached to Alex. But I was not bothered, perhaps because I haven’t read these other novels. I’m not a fan of wussy, sappy girl characters, and I didn’t feel Lena fit this bill at all. To me she came across as terrified because she’s suddenly challenging everything she was ever taught, trying to figure out what’s true and what’s false. Many of the decisions she makes are bold and push her far outside her comfort zone. And, really, Alex seems to need Lena as much as Lena needs him; it’s just that we get Lena’s perspective, not Alex’s. They’re two people caught in the teeth of a powerful machine, with only one another for support. Is Lena the strongest girl character ever? Of course not. But over the course of Delirium, I felt she found some strength and beliefs of her own.
I would definitely say that Delirium is one of the most gripping young adult novels I’ve read in a long time. I liked the premise and thought it was well executed. Will I be reading the rest of the trilogy? Absolutely!
If you’ve read Delirium, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you think you will?