Book Series Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver


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Looking for a great young adult series?  Well keep looking, because you won’t find it with Delirium. 

According to the Beatles, all you need is love.  And let’s face it; that has a much better ring to it than “All you need is [rational thought]. Bah da da da da!”  But in Lauren Oliver’s young-adult dystopian Delirium trilogy (i.e., Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem), love is a terrifying disease called Deliria Nervosa, and those who contract it may be subject to execution or solitary confinement in prison.  So what is it about love that is so detestable, and so frightening as to convince an entire society to banish its very existence?  According to the government, love leads to highly passionate, extreme emotions and muddies one’s capacity for clear, rational thought.  In other words, love leads to pain, acts of violence, and hasty, emotion-fueled decisions.  This is why at the age of sixteen everyone is required to be “cured,” that is, to undergo a surgical procedure to destroy the parts of the brain responsible for feelings of love.  Additionally, the government has taken away other freedoms as well, including the freedom to choose whom to spend the rest of one’s life with, how many children to have, and more.

Lena, the heroine of the trilogy, had definitely drunk the Kool-Aid, so to speak.  Whatever the government and its mass produced Book of SHH (Book of Safety, Health, and Happiness) was selling, she was buying.  She was terrified of catching the Deliria; fearing that she would turn out like her mother, who apparently committed suicide after many botched attempts at the procedure.  Then one day, as fate should have it, Lena met Alex, a charming boy just slightly older than her.  I’m sure you can guess what happens from there.  Predictably, Lena is lost to her raging teenage hormones and falls head over heels for this uncured (gasp!) rebel.  Lena’s procedure is scheduled for the end of summer, and with it quickly approaching, she grapples with whether she should take the safe route and go through with the procedure, or escape from the grasp of the oppressive government to opt for a life of adventure and uncertainty.   The first book of the series, Delirium, explores Lena’s decision whether to go through with the procedure, and the latter two books, Pandemonium and Requiem, detail how Lena handles the ramifications of that decision.  In Requiem, the war between the cureds and uncureds comes to a head, with both sides fighting for survival, and no room for compromises.

I originally started reading this series because I acquired the audio book of Delirium, and then went ahead and finished the series since I hate leaving loose ends.  As far as audio books go, it wasn’t too bad – but I am notoriously hard to please in this area.  I wind up getting frustrated when the reader tries to do voices for different characters (especially voices of the opposite sex), and this was no exception.  The reader’s depiction of Alex was dreadful – although I can’t really fault the author for that.  Still, it’s hard to think of a guy as enticing or hunky when he sounds like a subdued Casper the ghost with emphysema.  Overall, this is definitely a series that was more enjoyable to read than to listen to.

Audio quality aside, unfortunately the story left a lot to be desired.  Although it kept me interested (mostly), it definitely does not hold up when compared to similar novels in this genre (for instance, the first two books in the Divergent series).  It just didn’t have the same level of drama, nor was I as attached to these characters.  In particular, Lena could be rather grating at times, especially in the way that she was hesitant to commit fully to any one course of action many times.  What ruined the entire series most for me was the ending.  It had what I like to call an Ender’s Game ending.  In other words, with about 10-20 pages left to go, you are asking yourself, how in the heck is this book going to end with so many unresolved issues at the moment?  The answer, in this case, is to leave most of those loose ends untied.  It seemed to me like Oliver just got tired of writing, and was like “Ok, good enough.”   No; not good enough, Oliver.  Give me a proper conclusion!

If you are looking for a good young adult series, this would not be the one I’d recommend.  I wholeheartedly endorse Divergent by Veronica Roth (the third and final book is scheduled to be released in a month or two) as well as the Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (only the first book in this series has been releases thus far.  I think why I actually liked these two series better is because the female leads in them were very BA, while on the other hand Lena came across as a little girl playing dress up in “tough girl’s” clothing.  Lena seemed pretty disingenuous in that respect, like she was playing a role rather than actually living it.

Delirium Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pandemonium Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Requiem Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Overall Series Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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