Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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.

After reading Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver's first book, I knew one thing about this author: she can really stir up the emotions! (I'm still reeling from the ending of that book.) So, I found it curious that her latest book is labelled as "dystopian", which are typically devoid of least out in the open.

But, with this genre, I think Lauren Oliver is a natural fit. Her main character, Lena, admits that she often feels like two different people, one on the inside and one on the outside. Living in a dystopian society, where the paranoia of always being watched is realized, these feelings are understandable, especially in this world that Oliver has created.

Lena is 17, almost 18, the age at which scientist have found a cure for the disease called love (in the book, it is named amor deliria nervosa). From that age, society chooses who you will be partnered with for, basically, propagation of the species. Random meetings, love at first sight, heartbreak, all these normal factors are replaced with scientific match-making (E-Harmony gone wild, as it were.)

So, here's what gets me: First, it seems science doesn't always get it right. Lena's knowledge of her mother's past is horrifying, at least to me. Second, if love is truly taken away before you have your children, they lose out on so much of the parental relationship; it's just heartbreaking to imagine.

Having said this, the emotions drawn out in the reader, especially the anxiety for these poor children living this way, is what makes me feel that Oliver's writing is spot on. She comes from a place of deep understanding of those delicate teen to adult years and the major decisions that are usually made during this time and twists them with all her might. Not to mention, of course, the nerve-racking first love that comes around that time also, (for most people.) All I can say is that I'm glad I don't have to go through all of that again!

Normally, the main story is what keeps you reading and wanting more, and that is very true here, but for me, the secondary characters in Delirium are no small part of this imaginary world. The best friend, Hana, and what role she will play in the future (I have my suspicions) and Lena's cousin, Grace (she has piqued my interest the most, I admit) will encourage me to keep reading this series (Delirium is book one of a trilogy.)

Having recently read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I can see similarities in the way this world has been imagined with the border closures, scientific control, and the fringe element that is necessary for a small measure of hope. The main difference here, I think, is that this story is less of a commentary of society overall (though there is some of that) but more about the fragile inner workings of youth. Delirium is an awesome start to the series!


Book Flame said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this book but I still have a nightstand full of unread books.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I've been hearing more and more about this one and I'm liking what I'm hearing. Sounds like a great take on the whole world and love. :) Thanks for the review!

Jackie said...

@Book Flame - I hear ya! Hope you enjoy it when you finally get to it.

@Melissa - Did you read Before I Fall? This is different, being dystopian, but she's a great writer, I think.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

No, I've never read Before I Fall. Although it sounded good too. :) But I think I like the sounds of this more. :)

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