Saturday, March 12, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Summary (from Lena Haloway is content in her safe, government-managed society. She feels (mostly) relaxed about the future in which her husband and career will be decided, and looks forward to turning 18, when she’ll be cured of deliria, a.k.a. love. She tries not to think about her mother’s suicide (her last words to Lena were a forbidden “I love you”) or the supposed “Invalid” community made up of the uncured just beyond her Portland, Maine, border. There’s no real point—she believes her government knows how to best protect its people, and should do so at any cost. But 95 days before her cure, Lena meets Alex, a confident and mysterious young man who makes her heart flutter and her skin turn red-hot. As their romance blossoms, Lena begins to doubt the intentions of those in power, and fears that her world will turn gray should she submit to the procedure. In this powerful and beautifully written novel, Lauren Oliver, the bestselling author of Before I Fall, throws readers into a tightly controlled society where options don’t exist, and shows not only the lengths one will go for a chance at freedom, but also the true meaning of sacrifice.

“Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.”

Release Date: February 2011 
Reviewed by: Baby Sister Brittany
The Sisters say: Startling. Strong. Succulent.

It’s official. I’ve been infected.

With Amor Deliria Nervosa. Also known as Delirium. Also known as love. 

I loved this book. (Am I allowed to say I loved a book that is about a world where “love” has been deemed a disease?) Ah, who cares! I LOVED THIS BOOK.

We all have certain kinds of books we like to read—a literary niche, if you will. And for me, I’ve always drifted towards books dealing with forbidden love. And I don’t just mean “forbidden” in the sense that it’s unusual or improper or even slightly dangerous for the two main characters to be together. I gravitate towards the kind of forbidden love where it is unusual, improper, dangerous, and seemingly impossible for our ingénues to find any kind of happiness.  I want love so forbidden that to choose each other means giving up something else important (perhaps everything else)—a sacrifice of self, family, and possibly sanity (since characters must go against every instinct of self-preservation to choose that kind of love). I want books about the kind of love that most of us would turn down in real life because of the danger, our sense of reason, and plain common sense—the kind of relationships we only ever get to have in our imaginations. And Delirium is just that kind of book!
The relationship that develops between Lena and Alex is not only forbidden because of her uncured status (and the secrets of Alex’s identity), but also because LOVE, itself, is forbidden. Lena lives in a world where even families treat each other with cold detachment. Her mother’s “I love you,” given as a gift in their last moment together, acts as a seed implanted deep in Lena’s mind that blooms gradually and beautifully despite the propaganda that Lena has grown up believing as fact.

Speaking of propaganda—the little tidbits of information at the beginnings of each chapter, ranging from politically-correct love-bashing nursery rhymes to handbooks about the cure, acted as little hooks that reeled me in bit by bit into Oliver’s world. They, along with the rest of the book, are deliciously quotable. After each one, I was itching to call someone and read each little section aloud. Several times I had to stop reading and mark a quote (or enter it as a Facebook status), because they were so provoking that I didn’t want to forget.

I could sit here and wax poetic for several pages about the captivating plot of this book, my affection for the characters, and how completely their world captured me, but I think this book’s strongest attributes speak for themselves. The concept is novel and fascinating, and if you give it a chance—you’ll read with horror and fascination and excitement as the story unfolds.

I will speak briefly about my one issue with the book. While I thought the world-building with respect to the disease and the cure was fascinating and complete, I do think that the world-building was lacking elsewhere. I have trouble believing that people just up and decided love was a disease one day and readily accepted a cure when it became available. I feel like there would have to be some huge inciting incident in order for the love-haters to so outweigh the love-lovers (teehee…). And that’s information that is never revealed. Besides the cure—travel is also restricted in the U.S. and city borders shut down, but besides that—life seems relatively normal.  People go to college, have kids, etc (all according the governments assignments, however). I can’t believe that a society that was willing to be cured of love would be so similar to ours. I wanted to know how lack of love affected the rest of the world—Do people only work for money rather than enjoyment? Are there no more arts? No more entertainment? No more sadness?  If you don’t love anything to begin with—does it hurt to lose it? We see glances of rebellion in the forbidden music that Lena is exposed to, but that is a small percentage of how life was on the whole. Perhaps it’s naïve of me, but I think that so much of life is about love. And so much of the world is about life. So to take love out of the equation, I expected the world to be drastically altered—like a rainbow without colors, a book without words—that to me, is life without love. Looking at the cured characters in the book, they aren’t just cured of love, but most emotions all together. I believe one of the propaganda sections said that the cure cut down on crime (no more crimes of passion), but wouldn’t a world of complete emotional detachment also have its dangers? Can there be guilt when no other emotions are present?

None of this cut down on my enjoyment of the book. On the contrary, the mark of a good book is one that makes you stop and think about the world in which it takes place. I wouldn’t have wasted my time on a lesser book. I was simply so captivated that I wanted to know more. I wanted a finished painting rather that just the main idea.

I look forward to the second book in the series—in the hopes that it will continue to fill in the gaps in this new dystopian world. I’m also dying to know what happens next after the unforgettable, heart-wrenching ending of the first (another literary niche of mine—I love authors brave enough to put twists at the end that aren’t just exciting, but heart-breaking and world-changing).

So, go ahead. Read Delirium. Catch my disease.