With my new resolution to review more books, I decided to come up with a new format for the reviews. I took ideas from the more structured look of my review database project from library school and information I like to hear when books are recommended to me. So, here is this year’s first review with the new format!
Release Date: February 1st 2011
Series: Delirium (#1)
From the book jacket:
Ninety-five days and I’ll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard to not be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.
In futuristic America, love has been declared a deadly disease. A procedure has been developed to cure people of the disease once they reach their 18th birthday. This cure is supposed to protect the citizens and the country from the ravages caused by love and passion, what the scientist and government identified as the cause to all pain and war. Seventeen-year-old Lena is just a few months away from her procedure and she can’t wait. She wants to be protected from the love that destroyed her mother and she wants the pain from the memories to be erased. Lena is literally counting down the days until her procedure when a chance meeting changes everything.
This is a book that, the more I think about it, the more I enjoy it. On the surface, it could be classified as typical dystopian love story, but there are so many layers below the action. She does fall victim to a few of the more common tropes of dystopic literature, but she can be forgiven for those when considering them in the context of the whole. Oliver’s commentary on love and what it means to be human is so incredibly effective in it’s subtlety. Upon reading the description, one might be tempted to only consider romantic love as the focus of the story. However, this society has erased all love: love of parents for their children, love between friends, love of pets, even love of activities. The people in this society are unable to care for anything, unable to feel empathy, and the implications in that are huge. There is one horrifying scene involving a dog that really drives home what it means for a society to live without the ability to love. To me, the idea of what love means to humanity is just as big a story as that of Lena, herself.
Lena is one of those characters who is both flowed and totally loveable. Watching her come into herself and deal with her past is awesome. She starts out so fearful and accepting of her situation, but as things progress she breaks out of her shell and starts questioning everything. At the same time she’s happier and more brave than she’s ever been.
Alex is adorable, of course. He’s a perfect foil to Lena, but he’s also interesting in his own right. I wish we had been given more of his story, but this is Lena’s book after all. I don’t want to say too much about him to avoid spoilers.
Hana was a surprise favorite. I was worried for awhile that she was going to turn into one of those horrible fake best friends that are so common in some YA, but she came through. Lena’s relationship with her is one of my favorite parts of the book and it makes the idea of losing the ability to have a friendship like that after the procedure so heartbreaking. It almost makes me wish there was a version where platonic love was the focus rather than romantic love.
The book is set in Portland, Maine, so the beach and the ocean are huge factors in the story. Oliver’s descriptions make me wish I was there on the beach with the characters. She also really brings the city of Portland to life. With resources limited, many of the citizens lack the comforts that we find typical. She draws a great picture of a hot, dirty, suffocating city hidden under the guise of safety and protection. The setting provides the perfect background to Lena’s story.
Oliver’s writing is beautiful without being the least bit flowery. She is so descriptive – of the setting, the characters, the emotions – that you can see and feel everything. She’s also a master of the opening sentence. For example, this start to Chapter 18:
The lights from the guard hut get suctioned away all at once like they’ve been sealed back behind a vault.
That once sentence is so full of imagery and metaphor that you have to keep reading. The book is filled with great little bits of writing like that.
Oliver creates an entire belief system for her society based on the combination of Christianity, Science, and American History. The beginning of each chapter includes quotes from history books, children’s rhymes, songs, and websites that she has created as part of this system. It’s such a neat addition to the story and really fills out the setting.
As I lie there with the hurt driving through my chest and the sick, anxious feeling churning through me and the desire for Alex so strong inside me it’s like a razor blade edging its way through my organs, shredding me, all I can think is: It will kill me, it will kill me, it will kill me. And I don’t care.
Read This If You Like:
Crossed by Ali Condy
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Divergent by Veronica Roth