Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Summary: 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.

Our review: Delirium is a dystopian tale of a world intent on keeping everyone the same. This USA of the future has even outlawed love. Love has become a dreaded and feared four letter word. The government reasons  each citizen can be controlled easily when they can't feel. Love is the emotion that causes men to go to war, to quarrel, to become troublesome. In this country when someone turns eighteen they receive a procedure to cure them of the illness—the 'delirium' love creates. There are handbooks, prayers, and songs all provided to teach and instruct the people on how to avoid the phases of “amor deliria nervosa.”

In this world you are not happy until you've had the procedure, have been paired off with a spouse they've chosen for you, and you no longer feel. Sounds like a scary world and it’s all the main character, Lena Halloway, knows. 
Lena is a normal 17-year-old and has just graduated from high school.  She lives with her Aunt Carol and Uncle William and her two younger cousins. Lena was brought up to listen, obey and respect, and like every other teen she has been counting down the days until her own date with the operating table. The last thing she wants is to be unstable like her mother who committed suicide after multiple attempts (ineffective procedures) still  left her with the ability to feel.

The government regulates everything--including books and music--and their propaganda is taught in the schools which are segregated, girls with girls, boys with boys. Regulators go out on night raids and those caught touching another are either clubbed to death or taken away to live in the Crypts, a futuristic version of a psychiatric hospital.  It is not until she meets a security guard named Alex patrolling the perimeters of a government lab that she begins to truly “feel” something (she doesn't feel this way when she meets her intended husband). As the story proceeds she runs into Alex again and finds talking to a boy isn’t as bad as she heard. Besides, Alex is gorgeous and he sports the triangle shaped scar of those who have been “cured” so she’s safe from succumbing to the delirium. Or is she?

There are writers and then there are other writers. Oliver is an other writer I group along with  prolific authors Maggie Stiefvater, Gayle Forman, Carrie Ryan and Justina Chen Headley--authors whose lyrical prose instantly grabs you and has you rereading passages just to experience their words again (and again). For a book about not feeling, Delirium makes you do exactly that. Oliver does a great job of showing us this new world through Lena’s eyes. Told in first person present the reader feels as if she’s besides Lena, watching everything unfold in this cold world, experiencing her first spark of forbidden love, living with the everyday terror of being discovered by the Regulators. At 441 pages it is long and slow moving in parts, but since the story was well planned out and nicely crafted, time and page count did not matter.

Oliver’s dystopian tale of a world bent on removing all effects of love is a tumultuous and captivating story featuring a humble heroine who learns not to accept everything she is told. From page one of Delirium I wanted to know more about Lena, her strange country, and the young man she decides is worth breaking laws over to love freely. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the second.

Rating: ++++

Note: Delirium will be published on February 1, 2011.

Favorite excerpt: “But I know the truth: I know from nights of Coldness. I know the past will drag you backward and down, have you snatching at whispers of wind and the gibberish of trees rubbing together, trying to decipher some code, trying to piece together what was broken. It’s hopeless. The past is nothing but a weight. It will build inside of you like a stone.

Take it from me: If you hear the past speaking to you, feel it tugging at your back and running its fingers up your spine, the best thing to do—the only thing—is run.” (Page 176, ARC edition.)

Cover comment: It's an interesting cover and a welcome change from the deluge of young girls in fancy dresses I keep seeing grace YA books. I like how the lettering and swells give the feeling of motion (perhaps the 'delirium' of the title).

Book source: Traveling ARC tours


  1. I can't wait for this novel to be out. It sounds like an amazing read. I totally understand what you mean about other writers and I can't wait to discover it for myself! Thanks so much for the review.

  2. This sounds different, I like different! Thank you for the review. I'll check it out next time I'm in B&N.