So for my first book review, I decided to choose a book I just recently finished: Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I was unsure what to think of the book at first, but once the story started to unfold I found myself unable to put it down. Click 'Turn the Page' to read my full review. WARNING: Review may contain spoilers.
"They say that the cure for LOVE will make me happy and safe forever. And I've always believed them. Until now. Now everything has changed. Now, I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a LIE."
The front flap of the book reads:
"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 thing; it kills you both when you have it and when you don't."
Sort of scary right? That's what I thought too. That's also why when Delirium came out, even though I moderately enjoyed Lauren Oliver's other book Before I Fall, I was reluctant to pick up a copy. However, two friends of mine, both of whom are avid readers themselves, suggested I give it a try. I was downtown at one of the city libraries (and frankly the biggest library I've ever been in, I was in heaven) and stumbled upon the book while browsing the aisles. Since the book came with praise from two respected sources I figured I'd give it a try. Plus, I was just borrowing it from the library, if I hated it I could return it within three weeks and wouldn't be out any money.
In Delirium you're invited into the world of Magdelena 'Lena' Haloway. She lives in Portland, Maine in what seems to be a time far in the future (although no year is ever mentioned as the setting of the story). The United States is not as we know it today. Each town and city is protected by borders to separate the 'cities' from the 'wilds'. Why is this necessary? It is necessary because Lena lives in a word where love is considered a disease and scientists have found a cure. In the towns and cities, once you turn 18 years old, you are required to have a procedure that rids your body of love and leaves you with a three-pronged scar behind your ear. Since love is no longer an issue, the government gives you a list of romantic matches, you choose your match before your procedure and the two of you are wed after you graduate. The government also tells you how many children you will have, where you will live, and your projected salary for the rest of your life. The government has taken the guesswork out of living, as well as taking away everyone's ability to love. Well, not exactly everyone.
Out in the Wilds is where the Invalids live. The Invalids are 'uncured' and can spread the 'disease' to anyone else who is uncured. The government protects the people of the cities from the Invalids by putting up the borders: electrified barbed wire fences that are sure to fry anyone who tries to climb them. The Invalids live in the Wilds and everyone else lives in the cities. Boys and girls that are uncured are separated until the age of 18 to prevent contamination. Fraternizing with an uncured of the opposite sex is prohibited by law if you are also uncured; it's grounds for an immediate procedure to cure you of the deliria and it may also be grounds for being thrown in the crypts (prison) for life.
Lena knows these laws are there for her own protection. Her mother was unable to be cured, despite having the procedure three times. Lena's mother committed suicide many years ago, presumably because of the deliria; Lena does not want to end up like her mother. She follows the rules to the letter, is always in by curfew, and prepares diligently for her evaluation so she can get in to college and get an intelligent match for a husband. Lena's friend Hana is the wild one who sneaks out to listen to unapproved music and sneaks into the loading docks of the laboratories just to see what is there. Rule-following Lena goes along with Hana knowing that in a few months they will be cured and won't have these experiences again.
Both experiences lead Lena to a 19 year old boy named Alex. He works as a guard at the loading docks of the labs and he is cures; the three pronged scar behind his ear shows that the girls have nothing to fear in his presence. However, Lena can't shake the feeling that she's seen him somewhere before, and she most definitely doesn't know how to deal with the feelings that bubble inside of her after they dance to some forbidden music at a secret concert. Lena also doesn't know why she agreed to meet up with Alex the next afternoon on the beach.
The meeting is harmless, Lena tries to tell herself. They sit in silence on the sand before having a swimming contest out to the buoys in the water; the equivalent of the electric fence borders on land. Lena wins their race and a conversation ensues. Alex is not actually a 19 year old cured boy. He is really an infiltrator from the Wilds. He claims that a scar proves nothing and is easy to replicate with a pen knife or any other sharp object. Lena runs from him, panicked to be breaking a rule. Hanging out with an Invalid would surely land her in the crypts, not to mention she would contract the deliria. But for some reason Lena just can't stay away.
After falling into the deliria Lena realizes that the life she has been living is a lie fabricated by the government. Love may tear people apart but it is also the most wonderful feeling one could experience. A life without it changes personalities for the worse and society punishes those who don't conform. With Alex's help, Lena plans for them to escape together into the Wilds, knowing full well neither of them can come back to the lives they are currently leading.
I didn't think I would be able to really get into this book. I usually pick books that I can relate to, or stories and settings in which I'd want to live. This book did not have any of those qualities. I never desire to live in a world without love because I agree with Lena in that a life without it isn't one worth living. However, once I got started with this book I really couldn't stop. The character of Alex charmed me from the beginning. The way he was written, even just the way his appearance is described, you can tell he's different from everyone else milling around the town of Portland. His actions are rebellious, and against the social norms but his underlying intentions are good, and I sure am a sucker for characters like that.
I can't even say that I relate to the character of Lena in any way, shape, or form. I don't come from a broken or even slightly dysfunctional family. I suppose I follow the rules like she does, but not out of fear of turning out the 'wrong' way or even the fear of punishment. I follow the rules because I've never found a reason to push the boundaries. This has been my roundabout way of saying, there was no reason I should have been sucked into this story and It probably shouldn't have held my interest for 441 pages, but it did.
The book became captivating because of its contrast to the world we currently live in. Everyone in the story is restricted in everything they do. Everyone is supposed to conform to these and be like emotionless robots (one of my friends equated the society to being like zombies without the desire to eat brains). In America today we are not told explicitly by the government who to marry and what jobs to take, but aren't we victims of peer pressure? Aren't we told by the media, magazines, and popular opinion that we're supposed to date the "cutest and richest" boys, aren't we supposed to work at jobs that will make us "big bucks", and aren't we supposed to dress a certain way, be a certain clothing size, and make our hair look a certain way to be 'accepted'? If we don't follow these 'rules', what happens? Bullying happens. The control of the government in this story stuck me as a metaphor for the peer pressure of the society we already live in.
This book also provoked the thought in me, what if we really did live in a world where there was no love? Who's to say that in the future, the majority of people aren't going to decide we don't need love; it's a hindrance to the education of pre-teens and teenagers, it causes teen pregnancy, the absence of love causes divorce, and sometimes love paired with psychosis leads to injury or death. What happens when someone decides love (and other feelings) just inhibit our progress? I don't think something like this could ever happen broad spectrum in America, but in the future it may have the potential to start a small cult that will look for a cure to human emotions. That thought scares me.
Enough of looking into the deep and morbid side of the story. All in all this was an action packed book that I can see someday being turned into a movie or a trilogy of movies considering this is the first book in a trilogy. I'm eagerly awaiting my next trip to the library to pick up the next in the series, Pandemonium, and see how the story plays out. This book ends with a cliffhanger that did not make me too happy, especially after really taking a shine to a certain character. I hope the next book doesn't start with the same conclusion I jumped to in my mind.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars