Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Rating: PG-13; 4 1/2 stars
Summary: Imagine a world cured of the most deadly disease in history. Now imagine this disease isn't cancer, AIDS, or any other known medical problem; this is disease is love, amor deliria nervosa. This is the world Lena Holoway lives in, the only world she has known. And she is looking forward to the cure, the medical procedure that will forever keep love from her body and mind. She has memorized the symptoms. She takes care of herself, for she doesn't want to end up like her mother: infected with the deliria to the point of suicide. Yes. Lena is excited for the cure. And then she falls in love, and nothing will be the same.
Opinions: This is my first dystopian read of the year, which is rather sad, as dystopian is one of my favorite genres. Delirium definitely didn't disappoint. So much in dystopian fiction is about concept, and this was definitely a good one: a world in which love is illegal and is treated and “cured” like a disease. That's some heavy-handed stuff. On top of that, Oliver's protagonist-narrator is complex and well-developed. And despite the dystopian setting, Lena thinks and acts just like a teenager. She is awkward, moody, and confused about herself and her upbringing. She just had this air of genuineness about her.
One of my favorite things about this novel is actually a pretty unimportant detail: I loved the melding of religion and science. The future that Lena lives in is filled with the combination of religion and science that, to us, would be weird, if not offensive. But to her, it's the only thing she's ever known, so it all makes perfect sense, even the poem for remembering the periodic table, which is recited as a prayer.
In a similar vein, the world building in this novel is just fantastic. Every detail included is convincing, and nothing necessary is left out. Each chapter is headed by an excerpt from some literature of this society; most chapters have propaganda or other government texts, but further into the book are examples of banned writing. I found this fascinating, wishing that Oliver would take the time to actually write some of these texts in full. I haven't really had this wish since I finished the Harry Potter series.
I also loved Lena's attitude towards her world and its rules. In a lot of similar books, the protagonist is either rebellious from the beginning, or at least curious about other ways of doing things. Lena is convinced that “the cure” is the only way. She is terrified of contracting deliria nervosa. As the novel progresses, she starts to think differently. But it isn't until almost the end that she reaches a conclusion that most readers will have had from the beginning (I won't spoil it).
I gave this book a PG-13 for language, violence, and some very light sexual content. There's not really too much that might be objectionable, though the f-bomb is dropped a few times. The violence is no worse than in a lot of classic literature, but there are definitely books lighter on violence. I gave it 4 1/2 stars for several reasons. I really enjoyed this book. That being said, there really wasn't anything that made it stand out as a 5 star book. I'm starting to think that I'm rating books too easily and I need to be more critical. So yeah, there was nothing to make this really stand out as a 5 star book. I was also disappointed to find out that this is part of a series. Based on recent experience, I'm starting to sigh when I find another dystopian series, not because I don't like series, but because I want to see a YA dystopian that can do it all in one book. I also really liked the ambiguity of the ending of Delirium, and the fact that it will probably be clarified in the next book is a little disappointing.
Rest assured that I will continue the series, though. This was a really good book. I read the last twenty pages or so while following my mom around in the grocery store, it was that unputdownable. I definitely recommend it to fans of dystopian fiction, and even for those who maybe don't read the genre as much. Once you accept the premise of the novel, it is very easy to get swept up in Lena's world (even if the romantic in me was weeping for much of the novel :P). This is a great book, and although I wish it was a standalone, I am looking forward to the next installment.