Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Pages: 393, hardcover
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date Released: February 3rd, 2011
Genre: YA / dystopian / romance
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one 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 Holway 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. (Taken from Goodreads)
Dystopia is a hard genre to write in. Usually because it takes a topic and magnifies it, and in this case, the topic is love. So my question is: why the hell is love outlawed? Usually, dystopian only really works if the issue is a current issue that we’re facing, and dystopians explore what would happen in the future if the problem hasn’t been handled (for example: global warming [though I haven't come across many dystopians that handle that]). Already, before picking the book up, I have problems with it. How had it gotten to the point where love could be considered a disease? For a dystopian, it sounds rather unbelievable.
On page 3, Oliver already managed to piss me off, though, I’m sure it was unintentional on her part. There is a passage that goes:
“Instead, people back then named other diseases–stress, heart disease, anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia, bipolar disorder–never realising that these were, in fact, only symptoms that in the majority of cases could be traced back to the effects of amour deliria nervosa [love].”
Now, as someone who suffers from 4 of the 7 things named above, I take offense to the idea that these are merely symptoms to something like love–something they tried to eradicate. And once these people are ‘cured’ of love, they are also cured of these ‘symptoms’. I find it really frustrating when people act that way towards mental problems like the ones mentioned. Their lack of understanding is the reason why there is this stigma towards mentally ill people.
I will have to admit that I loved how much like sheep the society acted like, and how determined Lena in to do well by her governments standards. I think that an important part of dystopians is the realisation–the epiphany that the main character has–that everything is a lie. In this book, it’s done fairly fantastical. In the beginning, Lena is just like the rest of society, but after things start turning awry, she starts questioning the rules. And that’s when shit hits the fan, and the moment that I cheered.
There are some innaccuracies in the story that could have easily been fixed with some simple research. For example, I don’t get how six months can make any difference in a procedure, especially when everyone is different. Technically speaking, some people might be physically matured enough to handle such a procedure from a younger age, and others when they’re in their 20’s. It seems as if Oliver just didn’t bother picking up any books on neurology and psychology. And unfortunately for her, one of my hobbies is reading those kind of text books for fun, so I’ve picked out all these mistakes.
Also, this baffles me: Lena’s father apparently died of cancer. So, they can cure a non-existent disease INSIDE YOUR BRAIN, but not cure cancer. It makes little sense.
I disliked Lena. She was so passive. She was worse than Bella Swan, and we all know what that girl is like. Lena just let people push her around, and she hardly did anything active, except for the last 100 or so pages, but even then, she’s only so active because of some guy.
I’m not sure how I feel about Lena and Hana’s friendship. On the one hand, they contrast each other in a way that it works; they’re dependent on each other’s strengths. Lena is so passive, and Hana is rebellious and strong and has a mind of her own. There were often times that I found myself wishing that Hana was the main character, because she wasn’t some weak pansy.
Lena also seems to be only capable of making stupid decisions, like trying to go to a secret house party to warn people that there’s a raid going on. She puts herself at great risk trying to do something that has a very unlikely chance of working, since the raiders were literally right behind her. If I were her, I’d have stayed at home, where it was safe. After all, everyone at the party knew the risks. They knew that there was a fairly good chance of getting caught, and they all knew that the punishments would be severe.
Then, at the party, she gets mauled by a dog. While she is profusely bleeding from her leg, all she can think about is how sexy Alex is without a shirt on, while she’s in a shed that smells of animal piss. In fact the entire time she’s with Alex after the raid, she doesn’t think about Hana, even though she was the main reason Lena went to the party. Instead of worrying for her best friend, she’s making out with some random guy.
I really liked the writing. It felt like one of the few good things about this story. Oliver really has a way with words. It made it hard to put the book down at times. Also, I liked the world-building, even though the reasons behind the world were unbelievable.The setting, the history and the people made the world feel realistic, and I wanted to know more.
For a while, the only thing that kept me fairly happy was that Romeo and Juliet wasn’t used in a positive “twu wuv” light like most other books that done. The society believed it to be a cautionary tale, which I could believe in that instance. But then Alex went and ruined that notion by claiming it to be a “great love story”, and I wanted to hit him with a heavy, blunt object several times over his thick noggin. It seems that anyone in publishing that refers to Romeo & Juliet seem to kind of totally miss the whole point of it. I mean, have they read the ending? They die.
For about 200 pages, nothing seems to happen. All we get from the narrator is 200 pages explaining why she loves Alex so much. She’s known him for a month of two. How can she love him? She barely knows him. I was hoping that Delirium wouldn’t follow that trope, but alas. As I expected, there’s the unhealthy viewpoint of love, that without love, you don’t have anything else and life isn’t worth living.
“I’d rather die loving Alex than live without him.” – pg 379
I don’t understand why this sort of stuff is allowed when books like The Bermudez Triangle (Maureen Johnson) are being banned for having a gay character. Gay people are harmless. Telling impressionable young teens that their lives are worthless if they don’t have their true love is dangerous.
Sorry for this rant-like review, but I didn’t like this book too much. I would recommend reading it, though, in case you do end up liking it. I’m just fairly critical.
Cover Art: 2
Level of Interest: 3
Total Rating: 2/5 stars