Lauren Oliver's Delirium
Ages 14 and up
Children's book review by Tracey Fortkamp
Love is a battlefield….
“Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word 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.”
Book review - Delirium
In Lena’s society being infected with “amor deliria nervosa” or “love” is a fate worse than death. They have been told that this disease causes abnormal behavior, hatred, violence, anxiety and depression; and therefore, the downfall of society. The government has done everything in its power to have it eradicated. Scientists have developed a cure for ”love” and now everyone over eighteen is vaccinated to prevent infection and any person who displays the early symptoms of the disease is arrested and faces immediate reprogramming.
Lena views a life without love as a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, happy and is looking forward to the day when she will be cured. She is a consummate rule follower, panicking at the slightest thought of discourse or disobedience. Even after observing the neighbor’s home vandalized because they are suspected of being sympathizers to rumored 'Invalids' (those who reject the cure), the detached parents who never bond with their children, the girl dragged screaming from a secret boyfriend to the clinic to be 'cured' and then returns later serene, calm and without emotion, Lena is still counting down the days. This is the world she has always known and she, like many others, does not think to question its validity. In addition, her mother was eventually infected by the disease and committed suicide, driving Lena’s need to be cured.
Lena goes into her pre-cure evaluation with a positive attitude and excitement about what is to come. During her evaluation an incident happens and she accidentally meets Alex, a strange boy with whom she becomes instantly intrigued. Lena finds herself wanting to learn more about him. Why does he seem so different? Why was he in the evaluation room that day? She finds excuses to run into him and eventually discovers that he is part of a group of “invalids” that lives in the wild. Romance blossoms between the two and the more she learns from Alex, the more Lena begins to doubt the intentions of those in power.
Lauren Oliver’s writing style is truly beautiful. She has a way of pulling in the reader so that we begin to empathize with the main characters and feel part of their strange world. The idea of societal safety and compliance versus choice is not a new theme to dystopian literature, but Oliver’s concept of love as a disease is truly fascinating. We can all remember our first love, that feeling of elation and giddiness as we begin a new relationship, followed by the heartbreak, pain and depression of love lost. It certainly didn’t bring society to an end, but it affected our daily lives and those around us. And when Lena falls in love, it becomes so all consuming that this once straight-laced rule follower, is now missing curfew, lying to her family and friends, breaking into places that are off-limits and questioning her government's decisions – all in the name of love.
Delirium is the first book in what is to be a trilogy. Oliver spends a great deal of time developing the story of Lena, her society and her relationship with Alex. Some readers may find the book a bit slow at times, but I really appreciated the detail that went into Oliver's descriptions of life in Lena’s world. The book ends with a heart pounding climax that will have readers begging for the next installment.
Read more of Tracey's book reviews.
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