Sunday, July 22, 2012

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Summary:  In ninety-five days, Lena will undergo a procedure and be protected from amor deliria nervosa, the deadly disease of being in love.  After witnessing this disease claim the life of her mother, Lena is eagerly looking forward to the day when she will be free from the fear of contracting it herself.  Before the deadline arrives however, Lena finds herself accidentally infected by Alex, a guy she runs into in the oddest places.  Now, instead of embracing the future planned for her by the powers that be, Lena begins to wonder if the disease is preferable to its cure.

Dystopian Issues:  Totalitarian Government, Mind Control
Part of a Series: Yes, it is the first book in the Delirium trilogy
Next in Series:  Pandemonium
Age of Main Character:  17
Number of Pages: 441
Year of Publication: 2011
Publisher:  HarperCollins Children's Books

Review:  At times, I thought this book was more of a romance novel in a dystopian novel's covering.  I'm not a huge fan of romance novels, and Lauren Oliver's style of writing drives me up the wall.  Her 441 pages contain so many descriptive paragraphs that I found myself zoning out and having to force myself to go back and re-read paragraphs and pages I had skimmed in boredom.
      Oliver's idea is intriguing though.  In this version of the United States, love is considered to be a disease that needs curing.  When a person reaches the age of eighteen and it is safe, they undergo a procedure that ensures they will never have to feel the symptoms and consequences of love.
     Lena is seventeen years old and ninety-five days away from undergoing the procedure.  Ninety-five days proves to be too long away though when she contracts the disease and starts experiencing the symptoms of love for a guy named Alex.  It's a twist on Romeo & Juliet, but Oliver makes it clear that she is trying to draw a parallel between the two stories.  Both are about forbidden love.
     I like what Oliver is trying to do: explore what society would look like without love.  But instead of being profound it comes off like Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, where the totalitarian government is using and encouraging the fear of something to perpetrate brain damage and the creation of humans that act like sheep and do not cause trouble.
     Where Oliver gets my respect is in the fact that she has mixed in literature and poetry from our world, while also inventing a vast amount of literature from the world she has created.  I love when authors create supplementary works for their novels because it shows how invested they are in their work and makes their creation even more interesting and believable.

Real-Life Dystopia:  In Delirium, the most important choices are made for a person.  Things such as who they will marry, what job they will hold, if they will receive post-secondary education - even how many children they will have.  This is mirrored in our world in the cultural practice of arranged marriages, and in China where a reproductive policy of one child per couple exists.  Although according to The Guardian (, China's policy is more nuanced than it appears to be.

Memorable Quotes: "One of the strangest things about life is that it will chug on, blind and oblivious, even as your private world - your little carved-out sphere - is twisting and morphing, even breaking apart...
     And still the sun rises and clouds mass and drift and people shop for groceries and toilets flush and blinds go up and down.  That's when you realise that most of it - life, the relentless mechanism of existing - isn't about you.  It doesn't include you at all.  It will thrust onward even after you've jumped the edge.  Even after you're dead."
-  Delirium by Lauren Oliver, pg 302-303

      "For the first time in my life I actually feel sorry for Carol, I'm only seventeen years old, and I already know something she doesn't know: I know that life isn't life if you just float through it.  I know that the whole point - the only point - is to find the things that matter, and hold on to them, and fight for them, and refuse to let them go."
-  Delirium by Lauren Oliver, pg 383

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