Rummanah Aasi
 Lauren Oliver's debut YA novel, Before I Fall, was one of the most memorable books I've read last year. From the book's beginning to the end, I was on an emotional roller coaster with my emotions shifting in sync with the outcomes of Samantha Kingston's choices and actions. So when all the hype surrounding Oliver's sophomore dystopian trilogy called Delirium, I could not wait to read it. Like her first novel, Delirium gave me a lot to think about. After reading a few other blog reviews about the book, however,  I've come to realize that I didn't love it as much as other readers did for a variety of reasons.

Description: In dystopian America, love has been identified as the life-threatening source of all discord. Citizens at the age of 18 are submitted to a neurological procedure that "cures" them of amor deliria nervosa, i.e. love, whose popular symptoms include passionate feelings about anything including familial connections, poetry, and contact between members of opposite sexes are forbidden. The authoritarian government rules with an iron fist, closely monitors all of its citizens actions. Suspicion, violence and bureaucratically arranged marriages are necessary in order to protect the citizens and maintain peace within the nation. Lena is quickly approaching her 18th birthday and the date of her procedure brings both relief and anxiety. When she meets a mysterious boy named Alex, her unnamed feelings subvert everything that she has believed about her world and herself. With days away from her operation, could it be possible that Lena is infected with the disease?

Review: Believe it or not, it took me a while to come up with a coherent description of Delirium because its essence is much more. I found the book to be a mash up of four books/works that I've read before: A Clockwork Orange, Romeo and Juliet, the YA science fiction series, Uglies, and a recently released dystopian romance trilogy, Matched. I don't mean that the author copied from these works to make her book, but rather they all share a strong connection and left me wanting more from Delirium after I finished reading it.
  Lena's world is very similar to the horrors of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Burgess took violence to an extreme and took advantage of our feeling of safety when the officials in his world took extreme medical measures to recondition criminals. After reading A Clockwork Orange, I was left conflicted: am I horrified because someone's free will is taken away because he is deemed evil in our society or am I disgusted with myself because I agree with the officials actions? These questions further probed me to ask: Does conditioning really work? Can there ever be a utopian society where evil doesn't exist? I had the same questions when I read Delirium. Instead of using an example that we all deem as bad, Oliver takes something that we associate with good connotations, love, and challenges us to think a world can exist without love in any of its forms. Love is considered the root of all evil. In fact, passages of the Bible have been altered to show love has caused chaos and destruction in our world right from the beginning. It is Oliver's dystopian America that caught my attention instead of the romance angle.
  I loved the disturbing snippets of The Book of Shh, a handbook that states all the rules of Lena's world, more than the romance in Delirium. I wanted to know more about the world that Oliver created. Instead of focusing on the social-political impacts of the authoritarian government that rules Lena's world, the star crossed romance between Lena and Alex takes priority. Despite how much time is focused on the couple, I didn't find their romance to be powerful. There chance encounter and fever pace route from infatuation to full blown romance was a lot like Romeo and Juliet whose relationship began and died in a matter of less than a week. I found it fascinating that in Lena's world Romeo and Juliet is read as a cautionary tale instead of a how it's typically taught in classrooms as a tragic love story. After reading the play with a different perspective, I would have to agree with Lena's officials. I would argue that Shakespeare never meant Romeo and Juliet to be a love story. That being said, I didn't find the big twist at the end to be a cliffhanger but actually expected it to happen. For me, the character of Alex was a bit flat because I predicted his back story and secrets before he reveals them to Lena. Once those were stated, there was no mystery left to discover with Alex. Sections of Lena and Alex's romance slowed down my reading pace just a little, while I blazed through the pages when the government came to the spotlight. The only relationship that I enjoyed watching develop is Lena and Hannah's relationship, which seemed as a metaphor for the theme of duality that plagues the world of Delirium.
 Unlike Matched, where romance is the catalyst for the heroine to take a closer look at her controlling society, I didn't think Lena's romance lead to her awakening, but rather a reassurance to those constant nagging visions that she had of her mother. It those vivid and descriptive visions that really highlight Oliver's writing talents and bring in an emotional punch with Lena's first person narrative. Lena always had the drive for resistance from an early age, she was just afraid to test it out. 
  Despite the book's predictability, Delirium is a fast read that will surely appeal to readers who love romance and dystopian novels. Just be aware that the book ends abruptly, which reminded me a lot like how Scott Westerfeld's Uglies ended. Delirium is a planned trilogy and I hope the world building is a fleshed and explored while the romance is toned down just a bit.
 I'd like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an advanced reader copy of Delirium in order to provide you with an honest review for the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour.
 

Rating: 3.5 stars


Words of Caution: There is some language and a small scene of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.


If you like this book try: Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, Matched by Ally Condie, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, and for completely dark dystopian with a similar world try A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Awww sorry this one wasn't as good as you had hoped! I loved it, but I'm definitely with you on wanting to know more about the world and how they got to the place where they deemed love to be a disease. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one Rummanah!


  2. Thanks, Jenny. I'm wondering if I would have felt differently if I hadn't read "Matched" before reading this one. I did have a sense of deja vu, but it is an engrossing read.


  3. 3.5 is pretty much what I gave it, too. I had some issues getting into it, but I did, I really enjoyed it. I think Oliver did some unique things with it, but I just wish it could have been. . . I think it's like you said - I def needed to know more about the background of the Consortium - I don't think it was about getting rid of love - it was about defeating passion and potential opposition - that has to be it and we didn't really get a hint of that - I needed more background on the reasoning behind the premise.


  4. Well said, Linds. I don't think it was about getting rid of love either, but about the effects that happen because of love- impulsive decisions, hurt, hatred, lack of trust, etc when our hearts get broken. I had a hard time accepting that Lena was in love mainly because she never knew what it was and thus led me to believe she was simply infatuated.


  5. danya Says:

    I had a lot of the same issues with this one as you did, Rummanah. I didn't find the romance that compelling (Alex seemed too perfect to be true) and I wanted a lot more from the worldbuilding so that the reader got an idea of how the society had progressed to that point. I think my favourite aspect were those little snippets at the beginning of each chapter, which gave us a better taste of the dystopian flavour of the world (though I wanted more!)

    And I also think that my view of Delirium was affected by the fact that I'd read Matched first - I had the same sense of deja vu while reading it (although that was partly also due to the similarities to Uglies, which I have also already read).


  6. Danya, now that you mentioned "Uglies", I did think Alex reminded me of a softer David. I didn't realize that until now.


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