Delirium – Lauren Oliver – 5 stars
I don’t remember the last time I gave a YA Dystopian novel five stars. It gets to the point where you feel like every controlling society, every teen-turns-hero and every romance has already been done.
The reality is that Delirium is different to your typical book of this genre, and I think one factor is that it doesn’t have a huge scope. That may sound like a bad thing, but for me, it’s so refreshing to have teen-aged characters living fairly normal lives in a futuristic society – that’s not something we often get to see. With books like ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Legend’, and ‘The Darkest Minds’ (which, for the record, I do really like) we don’t get to experience the full horror of the world because the protagonist gets straight to shutting it down.
That said, I don’t want to talk too much about the premise; I think that’s better experienced through the book itself.
I’ve heard so many complaints that the book is boring, or that it’s slow. I think a certain slowness is the whole point! It centres around a girl who makes the transition from drifting along, fully supporting her dystopian society to waking up to the realities of her situation and having to re-evaluate everything she’s ever known. I honestly think Ms. Oliver did a great job of writing that! I assume that the next book – ‘Pandemonium’ – contrasts with some action-packed system-fighting (and I’m so up for reading that), but I really don’t think the sequel could out-do this one for me.
Another complaint about this book tends to be the writing style. “A slow story needs great writing to carry it,” etc. But guys…I LOVE Lauren’s writing.
“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 realize 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.”
She doesn’t use huge words, or overly complex sentences, but she’s writing for a young adult audience who quite often don’t need that complexity. Do we think big words make big emotions? (why yes, that was an Ernest Hemingway reference.)
Let’s talk about characters. In a book that’s essentially about love, it would have been so easy to make the whole thing about Lena and Alex’s romance. What I loved was that Lauren Oliver took care over building up a beautiful mother-daughter relationship, a moving sisterly relationship and a really fantastic best friend. It’s not Lena and Alex vs World, but Lena discovering the contours and nuances of the taboo that is love. It was a great juxtaposition with the clinical emotional drought, if you will, and the contrast made it all the more touching.
Lena and Hana in particular were great. I loved the way they interacted, and the realism with which the author treated the dips and peaks of their relationship was pretty special. The character I wasn’t overly convinced by was, sadly, Alex: I don’t feel like I know him very well, or have picked up a lot about his personality. That said, I trust Lena as a narrator, so what I don’t see is made up for by what she sees.
This book has had a fair amount publicity, and I’m glad of it. I think the messages about love, freedom, and even religion and science are so important to at least consider, and it makes me happy that so many people are getting their hands on such morally-upright and thought-provoking stories.
All in all, this book has wormed its way probably to my number one favourite Young Adult Dystopian book, and I recommend you pick it up next time you see it!
If you’ve read this too, let me know what you thought.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!