Book Review – Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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I’m a little late to come to Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series but that’s mostly because of my own overstuffed “To Read” bookcase. It was actually recommended to me by my aunt at Easter shortly after its initial release. She was right; I enjoyed it. While it is like a lot of other dystopic Young Adult fiction released in the last five to ten years, it managed to stand out and I enjoyed that Lauren Oliver took so many risks. I only hope that I don’t continue on with the series and discover that she’s back-tracked on some of those decisions.

Lena is approaching her eighteenth birthday and the brain surgery that will accompany it and she can hardly wait. Eager to be safe against the disease that led to her mother’s suicide and the taint it left on her childhood, Lena counts down the days to her procedure. The Cure will destroy her ability to feel love and any of the pain that may come with it. The Cure also tends to destroy any will to resist or analyze the government structures of everyday life, structures that she only begins to question when she meets Alex. That’s when she realizes that there are other sides of love that The Cure will also rip from her.

As much as Delirium is about Lena’s romance with Alex and her awakening to the realities of the life she’s been trained to want, the relationship that I actually found most compelling in the novel was the friendship between Lena and her best friend, Hana. The looming changes of graduation, The Cure, and what that will do to their friendship affect their dynamic and how they relate to one another. Though there are added dimensions to their transforming friendship due to the nature of the novel, the ages of the characters and the more relatable aspects of their situation are testify to the novel’s appeal. Heading off to college, separating from everything and everyone that’s familiar can be traumatizing, and not always in a noticeable or outwardly violent way. People change and lose touch, drifting apart naturally and many times, without realizing it. In the case of the novel, there’s a medical procedure that will be at the heart of their detachment.

As far as the novel’s plot goes, it is very straightforward and progresses in an understated way. I was surprised that there wasn’t more action given the early-established premises of the novel. There’s a lot of running, but it’s most just exercise and a way for Lena to meditate and analyze for the reader’s benefit. I was initially struck by all of the echoes of dystopic fiction I’ve read in the past, particularly The Giver by Lois Lowry and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

As I said earlier, there were elements that surprised me, most prominently the closing scenes of the novel (which I refuse to give away as I oppose spoilers of this nature). It was a fitting end for a stand-alone book but where there are now two more in the series, I hope that Lauren Oliver didn’t feel the need to undo what had been done. In Delirium she showed that she is capable of avoiding that unnecessary, unrealistic, but all-too-frequent retreat from an unpopular decision.

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