Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

January was definitely the month of the YA novel. While I am not one of those book bloggers that looks down on YA - to me a good book is a good book - I usually do read mostly adult fiction and nonfiction. However, for some reason I kept picking up YA novels last month, and this one blew me away completely.

Delirium, the first book in a trilogy, describes a dystopian United States in which love, now clinically classified as the disease amor deliria nervosa, is being eliminated from the population. Everyone undergoes "the procedure" at the age of 18 (before that, it is too dangerous to developing brains) which liberates them from all feelings of love. This is essentially supposed to keep the peace and protect the people, but in order to enforce the ban on love, all communities are isolated by a barrier and full of regulators, who keep an open eye for people who wish they could still love (sympathizers) and people who are infected with love (Invalids). Enter Lena - a rule follower, one summer away from her own procedure. Add a handsome boy to the mix. You can figure out what happens from there.

Honestly, I expected this book to be cliche. Dystopian literature is a huge trend right now, especially in YA, and from the summaries and reviews I read, I thought Delirium would just be a mishmash of The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Matched. I thought it would be fun and exciting, but probably not too original. I was so wrong. Delirium does share similar themes and plot points with other dystopian lit, but it definitely has its own moving story.

I think the main reason Delirium can stand out in a sea of other dystopian tales is Lauren Oliver's beautiful writing. In contrast to her society, where emotion is discouraged and removed, Lena's emotions are stark, powerful, and gut-wrenching.
This is what I imagine it feels like to climb to the top of a mountain, where the air is so thin you can inhale and inhale and inhale and still feel like you can't take a breath.
In a bleak community where enjoyment of beauty is cause for legal investigation, Oliver paints dazzling scenes through Lena's eyes -
Above our heads, the stars flare and glitter and flash: thousands and thousands of them, so many thousands they look like snowflakes whirling away into the inky dark.
I also appreciated that in Oliver's world, romantic love isn't the only thing that is lost. This book isn't just about romance and hormones. After the procedure, Lena will not just lose the boy she loves - she will lose her love for family members and friends. Lena's relationship with her best friend, Hana, is almost as important to the story as her budding romance with Alex. The two girls have come from different backgrounds, but still have bonded as best friends throughout childhood. Once the procedure is performed, they will "pass each other on the streets with nothing more than a nod - different people, different worlds, two stars revolving silently, separated by thousands of miles of dark space."
Best friends for over ten years and in the end it all comes down to the edge of a scalpel, to the motion of a laser beam through the brain and a flashing surgical knife.
Lest you think Delirium is all contemplation about what we would lose in a world without love, allow me to reassure you that it is also packed with action (this is where it becomes more similar to The Hunger Games - overbearing government officials, electrified border fences, etc.). While the first half of the book was a little slow with Oliver building up and explaining the world she created, the second half kept me breathlessly tearing through the book. On the last page, I was literally yelling at my Kindle, "No, no, NO!" The ending was a punch in the stomach, although I do think it was the best possible way to end the story. (I am dying to know what will happen in the next two books). I called literally three people to tell them they have to buy the book as soon as it comes out because I needed to freak out about it with someone. The book is out in the wild, guys. Go get it.

Accessibility/readability - Quite.
Aesthetics/Literary merit - 5. Gorgeous writing.
Plot - 5. A little slow at first, but the end was so perfect and unbelievable that it saved the whole book.
Characters - 5. I loved them.
Personal Response - 5. (Obvs)
Overall: 5

In case you want a second opinion, I thought Erin Reads had an excellent, very objective review.

FTC Disclosure: E-Galley received from publisher


  1. Sometimes I go through a YA mood too, even though like you I usually read adult stuff. This book doesn't really appeal to me, but I enjoyed your review of it.

  2. Have you read the Uglies & Pretties series? It sounds like a very similar story line. Hope you're doing well Lor :)

  3. Yes, why is the next installment not out yet???? I agree that Delirium does a great job distinguishing itself from other potentially similar books out right now. Often in such books, I find myself tripping over a particularly cheesy sentence or rolling my eyes at something, but I never did that in Delirium. The writing enhanced the story instead of detracting from it, which is one of the novel's strong points!

  4. I am very excited to read this one - I meant to pick this up and I've delayed on it. The passages that you've selected are fantastic - what a unique premise to eradicate love in a new futuristic society.

  5. I am really looking forward to this book; I've got it on Netgalley. So glad to hear you liked it!


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