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Lauren Oliver – Delirium

April 13, 2011

48. Delirium by Lauren Oliver (2011)

Read By: Sarah Drew
Length: 11h 43m (448 pages)

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Sci-Fi

Started: 21 March 2011
Finished: 04 April 2011

Where did it come from? From Harper Audio for review.
Why do I have it? Young adult dystopian? Yes please!

Lucky for Lena
the first boy she ever talks
to isn’t a schmuck.

Summary: Lena Holloway lives in a world where everyone over eighteen no longer has to suffer from the most dangerous disease ever to infect humans. After people have received the Cure, they’re no longer at risk of suffering through the pain, suffering, loss of appetite, and heart palpitations that come with Amor Deliria Nervosa. Lena’s only seventeen, but she’s eagerly counting down the days until her procedure… only three more months, and she’s never be in danger of contracting the Deliria, and feeling the deadly effects of love. She’s planning on spending her last summer before the cure running, and hanging out with her best friend Hannah.

But things start changing sooner than Lena thinks. Hannah is acting distracted and distant, and when there’s an incident at the lab during Lena’s evaluation – the evaluation that will determine her husband and her future – Lena spots a security guard that’s like no one she’s ever seen before. Alex has had the procedure, so he’s safe for her to be around, but he’s also not quite like anyone Lena’s ever met, and it’s not so easy to keep her feelings under control. Eventually, Lena begins to doubt the veracity of everything she’s ever been taught… because while love is undoubtedly risky, it just might be a risk worth taking.

Review: Dystopian novels mostly have roughly similar plotlines – government is lying to the people so that it can better control them; protagonist starts to suspect the truth and finds a way to buck the system – and therefore a new dystopian novel often stands or falls on the strength of its premise. And, on that scale, I’d say that Delirium was about 2/3s successful. To explain: This book absolutely sold me on the idea that love was a disease: Oliver does a great job casting the various symptoms in cold, clinical terms, and on highlighting love’s deadly effects. I also completely bought into the idea that love was something a dystopian government would want to stamp out; after all, people do crazy things for love, and people without strong passions would be much easier to control.

However, I didn’t quite buy the level of complete control that the government seemed to have. Lena’s story takes place not that long after the Cure was invented, and only a generation or less after it was made mandatory. I just had a hard time believing that so much of the population would have bought into it so quickly, and that given the large number of Uncured individuals we’re told still exists, that the system would be stable enough to continue to function. (Also, my inner science geek spent a fair bit of time wondering what exactly the Cure entails, neuroanatomy-wise. I’ve got some theories, if anyone’s curious, although they don’t quite jive with the details we’re given.)

So, while the premise is interesting, and mostly solid, the execution didn’t always match up to it. The pacing’s uneven in parts, which, when coupled with some extremely predictable reveals, lead me to spend a fair bit of time wanting the book to get on with it already. As an example, Alex doesn’t fess up to his Big Shocking Secret (which, of course, is not at all shocking to anyone who’s ever read a novel) until almost halfway through the book. But, on the other hand, I loved how seamlessly Oliver does her worldbuilding, and there were large stretches of character development, plot points, and action that kept me totally involved.

I also really enjoyed the narration. Sarah Drew is a great fit for Lena, and has the added bonus of actually sounding like a 17-year-old girl. She didn’t just read the book, she really got into character, injecting Lena’s voice with laughter or anger or panic, as required by the story. She didn’t quite have the vocal range to pull off some of the adult voices, but she did such a great job bringing Lena to life that I didn’t really mind. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Overall, Delirium is a solidly enjoyable if not particularly ground-breaking entry into the field of YA dystopias, and fans of the genre should give it a try. It didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed it enough that I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the sequel (and not just because Oliver leaves things on a hell of a cliffhanger.)

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: There’s tons of great reviews over at the Book Blog Search Engine.

First Line: It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 5:33 pm

    I don’t read a lot of dystopia but the buzz has been so big for this one that I want to give it a try.

    • April 18, 2011 11:48 am

      Kathy – It has gotten a lot of buzz, hasn’t it? I’ll be interested to see what you think about it.

  2. April 15, 2011 5:30 pm

    I am curious about this book. I might have to read it one of these days…

    • April 18, 2011 11:49 am

      Kailana – It’s good, and I think you’ll probably like it quite a bit. I don’t know what the plans are for a sequel/series, but there is almost certainly going to be one.

  3. November 3, 2011 9:26 am

    I finally listened to Delirium recently and enjoyed it. I also wished that there had been more explanation of the science and politics of the new regime in Portland, and also the global situation, but I guess it fit with Lena’s personality that she didn’t know more about it because she was trying not to question what she was being told. Wanted to let you know I linked to your review!


  1. Delirium by Lauren Oliver Audiobook Review
  2. The Things We Do for Love: Delirium by Lauren Oliver « Bay State Reader's Advisory: Reading Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian

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