Author: Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #2
Genre: YA, dystopian
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2012
Read for: Fun
** SPOILERS ** for Delirium are inherent in this review, so steer clear if you haven't read it.
Lena made it to the Wilds -- without Alex. And while she sacrificed the only life she ever knew to be allowed to experience the delirium of love, in the process she lost the reason for it. Still, Lena is determined to survive and be accepted into the hard, unforgiving life of survival necessary in the Wilds.
A few months later, she is back in civilization as an undercover piece of the Resistance. Her task? To watch Julian Fineman, the son of the leader of Deliria-Free America, a propaganda organization set on ridding the nation of deliria permanently. However, her goals are even more difficult than they seem -- society has become aware of the Resistance and is determined to fight it, and Julian is much more than his seemingly puppet-like role in the DFA would indicate. Will Lena fall victim to the deliria again?
So a few things up front. A) That is the ugliest cover I have ever seen. I truly love this book, but shudder at the cover. B) I was so shattered by this book that I can't wait to schedule my review out on a Friday like I usually do for YA novels -- this baby gets its own day of the week.
The structure of Pandemonium is very different from that of Delirium. Delirium is told linearly, with one event following the next. Pandemonium is told in alternating chapters entitled "then" and "now." "Then" is the story of Lena's life in the Wilds, and "now" is the story of the Resistance and her uncertain relationship with Julian. While the format may have bothered me due to the lack of consistency between the two novels, in the end I think it really worked for the story. Lena's time in the Wilds, while interesting and important, is slow-moving, while the Resistance chapters have more urgency. Alternating the two chapters gave a sense of mystery and urgency to the entire story, leaving me wanting more information as each chapter ended.
One thing that hasn't changed between the two books is Lauren Oliver's gorgeous, poetic writing. She manages to be beautifully descriptive without slogging her plot up with too many images, something I think is a very difficult trick to master. Her phrases are unique and yet capture poignant emotions that I know I've felt in my life, but which I could never express that perfectly. An example:
He barely whispers it; but I can feel his lips moving against my neck, as though the words are being spelled there.Tell me that isn't perfection in a sentence. It gives me chills.
Pandemonium also introduces several new and fascinating characters. Lena herself is almost like a new character -- while I could see the scared, obedient girl from the beginning of Delirium, as she hardens and strengthens herself in the Wilds and somehow manages to still be capable of love, she is definitely a changed character. We also get to know Raven, the ruler of the small community Lena finds in the Wilds. Raven is complex -- she loves the people in her homestead and is willing to do anything to save them, but at times her principles and her need to be utilitarian in order to save the greatest amount of people clouds her judgment. She and Lena have a tentative but powerful relationship as the story progresses.
And then we have Julian Fineman (interesting choice in the last name, especially considering how handsome he is described to be). As Lena spends more time with Julian, they become closer and closer, and she learns that the poster-boy for the DFA has more depth and emotion to him than she was expecting. I enjoyed learning who Julian truly was beneath the rally speeches and dramatic gestures; however, comparisons to Alex, Lena's love in Delirium, are inevitable, and for me, Julian just didn't hold up. Julian is incredibly vulnerable and naive once he is alone in a room instead of behind a podium, but I didn't find it endearing. While I thought it was sweet that he was desperate for information from Lena and willing to learn, I just couldn't see a reason for Lena to be attracted to him compared with Alex's strength and vitality.
And of course, in true Lauren Oliver style, the ending was absolutely shattering. I am thinking of writing a spoilerific post at some point to discuss what exactly happened and predictions for book 3. I can't believe that it is almost a year away. Fortunately this time when I read the book, it had already been published so I had some people to "squee" with.
Overall, Pandemonium was a great follow-up to Delirium. I am dying for the second book, despite my unimpressed feelings toward Julian. This series is proving to be one of my favorites of the last few years.
Warnings: Language, violence, some heavy kissing