Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: "Delirium" by Lauren Oliver

Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen, Feb. 1, 2011
Where I got it: I received this as an eGalley from NetGalley.

This book will be released by HarperTeen on February 1, 2011.

Imagine a world where the pain of remembrance and love does not exist. Heartbreak, romance and even simple love does not exist, cannot exist past your eighteenth birthday. At least, not since the cure. This is the world of Lauren Oliver's Delirium, a dystopia where love and hatred are replaced by indifference.

For 17-year-old Lena, this is the only world she has ever known. With a mother who killed herself because of the disease, she is extra careful to watch out for any of the signs of the illness—she is not her mother. But things change when she meets Alex, who seems so different from all the other cureds (or, those who have gone through the procedure to remove the ability to love from the brain). With her friend Hana, Lena begins to see that the government might not be telling them everything about the cure, how they operate, and about love.

Oliver has created a fairly original premise for a novel in Delirium. Love is a disease, and it must be eradicated for the sake of the human race. Yet as we read farther into the novel, we realize that the communities are all fairly closed off from each other. There is never any news from other states, or even other parts of Maine, where the book is set. It's just Portland, and that's all we or the characters know.

What is truly terrifying is how I see why love is considered a disease in this world. Each chapter begins with a quote from a government pamphlet or book, or a common rhyme that explains what the disease is, why it must be destroyed, and just other insights into this culture. Oliver does a wonderful job at listing the symptoms and phases of the disease (preoccupation, difficulty focusing; perspiration, sweaty palms; periods of despair, lethargy; obsessive thoughts and actions; pain in chest, throat and stomach; etc), making it sound as if it is, indeed, something to avoid at all costs, much like pneumonia or something. The worst outcome of the disease is death, as in the case of Lena's mother (suicide). Lena hears horror stories of people who have "contracted the deliria" and throwing themselves off buildings or dying in other horrible ways.

Lena herself is an interesting character to watch through the story. She is at first very careful with her activities, taking no risks, and her more outgoing, engaging friend Hana is much more fun to pay attention to. I kept on wondering what made Oliver choose Lena as her narrator, but after reading it I can see it was a very deliberate choice—we see how this world can be perceived as normal, and have the satisfaction of seeing Lena start to rebel as well.

As far as plot goes, I thought it started off a little slow. It was necessary for the exposition, but it just seemed a little languid for a while, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; it contributed to the tone. Plus, as always, Oliver's prose is something to be savored. Lovely and flowing, it is one of the novel's greatest achievements.

I am looking forward to the sequel, as the ending was a wicked cliffhanger.


  1. Great review! I've been really looking forward to this book, so I'm glad to hear it delivers. I am so curious about the whole love-as-a-disease premise.

    Also--I got your comment on my review earlier. Thanks for the suggestion! I do want to give Pollan another try because I did really enjoy how much information he presents the readers. I'm thinking if I try one of his slimmer volumes, it might work out easier for me.

  2. Thanks Jess! Let me know if you read The Botany of Desire, and what you think of it.

  3. Loved this one, too! I totally agree about Oliver's writing. And that ending! Argh!


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