Book Review – Requiem by Lauren Oliver

9780062014542_p0_v1_s260x420So I finally got up the courage to go ahead and read Requiem, finishing the Delirium trilogy. I swallowed down the feeling I was just setting myself up for predictable disappointment. I was surprised to find that, while it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting either. The clichés that ended Pandemonium were handled well in the concluding novel. There were aspects that I found disappointing, but they weren’t what I was expecting to be disappointed by (which in this case, actually does make a difference).

Picking up where Pandemonium left off, Lena is traveling through the Wilds with her first love, Alex, whom she’d given up for dead, and with Julian, who risked his life and joined the resistance because of the love he found with Lena. In the wake of the rebellious activities of Pandemonium, the government is cracking down on both the invalids and the resistance, even venturing into the Wilds to do so.

Lena’s physical and emotional struggles are interspersed with those of her former best friend, Hana, who remained in Portland, receiving the cure and now planning her wedding. The prominent position of her fiancé in Portland society means that Hana has a better idea of just what is being done to fix the security and compliance problems facing those in power. Little do the former friends know, they’re paths are bringing them closer to each other once more.

My main concerns with the novel going in were how the love triangle would be handled and how the introduction of Lena’s mother would be handled. While both were addressed at regular intervals, neither came to dominate the narrative. I felt that the reactions of all the characters involved were spot on. The battling emotions and competing loyalties played out in a way that didn’t seem too purposely drawn out for the sake of creating drama. The status of all these relationships at the novel’s conclusion are used to underscore the series’ themes regarding freedom to choose and the idea that you can’t understand and appreciate true happiness without occasional misery with which to balance and compare.

With each of the novels in this trilogy, Oliver has switched up the narrative approach a little bit. In Delirium, the narrative is a simple first person perspective with Lena as the narrator. Pandemonium continues with Lena as the reader’s only vantage point, but the events of the novel are out of chronological order, alternating between Lena’s early experiences in the Wilds and her time undercover with the resistance. In this final installment, Lena shares her duties as narrator with Hana. I can understand the impulse to include a second set of eyes. Hana is on the inside, still living in Portland, bringing the trilogy back to the familiar geographical setting where it started. The internal monologue of any cured contrasted with that of someone uncured provides an interesting take on the tension between the two sides, but choosing Hana, a character with established ties to Lena and someone whose personality readers saw prior to the cure keeps the decision to have her narrate even more attractive.

But for all the reasons to have done so, I don’t think the switching back and forth worked. I found Hana’s half of the plot less illuminating and more dragging. It felt obligatory instead of original. As the novel builds towards the climax, the cuts between the two narrators grow shorter, making everything feel disjointed and confusing. While the ending is appropriately ambiguous, I felt that the narrative felt stretched. Everything that had been mentioned in all three books was addressed but not many of them in a truly satisfying way. I feel like the suspense was higher in Pandemonium; the resistance felt more organized and the struggle felt more immediate. There’s too much of the emotional in Requiem and not enough of that physical side to what’s meant to be a revolution. It was a bit anti-climactic. But not in the way I’d been preparing myself for, which made me more okay with it. It isn’t the most disappointing conclusion to a trilogy I’ve read, but it’s not the best either.

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