Book Review – Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

9780061978074_p0_v1_s260x420After a brief break from young adult fiction in the wake of finishing the Divergent trilogy and taking another stab at the Lorien Legacies, I decided to return to the genre with the second installment of the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium. While Delirium spent a lot of its time setting up a world in which love has nearly been eradicated using a mandatory medical procedure at age eighteen, Pandemonium delves into the lives and tactics of those who have escaped and/or resisted that government. Presumably, the last installment will center around the confrontation between the two but I will have to wait a little longer before I get to Requiem.

In the trilogy’s second installment, the reader flashes back and forth with Lena from the days immediately following her escape from Portland to her work as an active part of the resistance in Manhattan. Initially found by a young woman, not much older than herself, who goes by Raven, Lena is taken into a small community of survivors in the Wilds. After spending some time recovering and learning more about what happened outside of the protected communities, Lena agrees to join several of her new friends in the resistance movement.

It takes a little while for the “then” and “now” format to become comfortable but it ultimately works. I think it would have worked a little better and been comfortable sooner if both weren’t narrated in the present tense. I hope I’m not the only one who thinks it would be logical to have used past tense narration in the “then” sections and present tense in the “now” sections. The “then” sections are longer at the beginning, they’re just about equal through the middle until the “now” sections take over in the end, balancing Lena’s chronological progression with a more compelling alternating narrative. My only complaint is that the last few “now” sections (the last segment in particular) could stand to be broken down further to assist in the pacing.

I don’t have many complaints about the rest of the plot. While it continues to explore the themes of the first novel, it adds new layers. After questioning and leaving the way of life in which she was raised, Lena throws herself completely towards the other extreme before realizing she stopped asking the important questions in the process. It’s not subtle in the foreshadowing but that’s hardly a surprise for young adult fiction (it’s actually subtler than most). There were two major twists in the novels final pages and it was one too many. Obviously, I don’t want to give them away. What I will say is that I’m less disappointed in the first reveal and what it portends for the trilogy’s final installment. The second makes me cringe a little and hesitant to move on to the last book. I have a nasty feeling that the strengths of the first two novels will be overwhelmed by the fallout from the two revelations, particularly the second. As I was reading, I believe my internal monologue ran something like this: “No, please don’t go there, please don’t go that way, ugh, you went that way.” I’d hate to see the deeper themes disappear among the tired clichés of young adult series. I’ll have to build up my courage before borrowing the last installment.

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