Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Book: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 441
Published: February 1, 2011 by HarperCollins
The 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.”

As soon as I read the premise for Oliver’s newest book, a world where love is considered a deadly disease, I was intrigued beyond belief. For a passionate person like myself, who is ruled by her heart and the desire to love and be loved, I was fascinated by the idea of a society who not only discourages love, but considers it a sickness. I heard an interview with Oliver where she talks about where the idea came from, and while it seemed like a great idea to me at this time, I wasn’t sure how she’d manage to realistically paint this society that shuns the one thing that our current society strives for.

From Goodreads:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love

The main character, Magdalena Ella Holoway Tiddle, or Lena, considers her 5’2” self completely average, a girl who is “in-between in every way” (page 440). She has been born into this society where love is feared and the “cure” is revered. Lena counts the days until her inoculation, following the rules set before her to a T: it’s the only life she has ever known. But when she meets Alex, a boy with wild eyes and hair like a crown of leaves, her entire world is turned on its head. Can she embrace the recklessness yet passionate feelings that are overtaking her whole body, or is there too much at risk to allow herself to be led by her heart?

Oliver does an amazing job at making this paranoid Portland, Maine society believable in every way. Every chapter starts with a quote or text taken from a supposed authoritative source, for example, The Book of Shhh, or The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook which is the guidebook for the “uncured” youth who haven’t yet been administered the cure to love. The Book of Shhh makes love a dirty word (“amor deliria nervosa“) and lists it as a lethal symptomatic disease that advances quickly and without warning.

The most disturbing part is that from an analytical point, the symptoms actually make sense! Love affects your mind so you cannot think clearly? Check! Love sometimes curbs your appetite and disrupts sleeping patterns? Check! It is truly scary how easily I can imagine our own current day world slipping into this delusional notion that love is a contaminating disease and Oliver really tries to stress that point.

But I think the point of the book, and the flaw of this society, is the blatant ignorance that love also has benefits, has positive aspects that far outweigh the heart palpitations and dry mouth. Lena discovers that everything she has even been told is a lie, and she’s happier for knowing. Happier for being aware, even if that awareness open old wounds and makes her contemplate her entire sense of reality.

As in any book, it’s all about the characters for me. Even if I love the story, or want to love the story, without realistic characters who come alive, the book falls flat. These characters fall far from flat, in fact, I still find myself thinking of them from time to time, often drawing strength from Lena and her heroism in my own daily life. Even the characters with whom I could not personally identify with, such as Lena’s aunt, Carol, were well-rounded and interesting.

Best of all, the ending is tragically fantastic and I am counting the days until the next book comes out in February of 2012. Really, making us wait that long to find out what happens, well, that should be illegal!

Overall, Delirium lived up to and surpassed my every expectation with its fresh writing, beautiful imagery, and masterful story progression. Oliver is a fantastic writer and I recommend her novels to anyone with a passion for poetic prose, purposeful characters, and meaningful stories.

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17 comments on “Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

  1. Heather Simone on said:

    I felt the same way at the end, I actually screamed “NO!!” Then I proceeded in getting annoyed that I have to wait a whole year to read the next installment. I can’t wait!

  2. Dawn Brazil on said:

    I can’t wait to get this book! I told my 15 year old about this and she can’t wait to read it too.

    • Genna Sarnak on said:

      I think both you and your 15-year-old will love it, Dawn! Love is a timeless subject, after all, and Oliver does a great job at writing it for all ages!

  3. This was an amazing book. “Tragically fantastic” is a great description of the ending :) Can’t wait to read Pandemonium!

  4. Shirley on said:

    Terrific review! Delirium just moved up on my wishlist.

  5. Donna Hole on said:

    Great review. I don’t read YA and I’m already hooked. I like series books; and especially books with believable characters.

    Thanks for the e-mail about winning Jason’s e-books. I can’t wait to get started reading them.


    • Genna Sarnak on said:

      Delirium is really good. I think you would enjoy it, Donna!

      Also, I hope you enjoy Jason’s books and drop him a note if you do. He’s an awesome guy and very deserving! Thanks so much for entering!

  6. this has been on my TBR list forever! Glad you enjoyed it!

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  8. CAITLIN RABER on said:

    I was confused of the theme for this book

  9. My crit group and I had a lovely discussion about this book this past week. My two cents in our discussion was basically:

    Lauren Oliver has a gift with words and I enjoyed the literary nature of Delirium. I loved Lena’s voice. I loved the details such as the epithets and Book of Ssh excerpts. I loved that she quoted one of my favorite love poems (i carry your heart). And mostly, I loved the overwhelming pictures of LOVE that LO weaved together to SHOW that LOVE is not the disease. That LOVE cannot be contained…cannot be taken…and even as I write this I have chills just thinking about scenes between Lena and Hana…best friends who shouldn’t be friends, separated by status, class, physique…a picture of love and loyalty in the way they protected each other. The family bonds between Grace and Lena, and between Lena and her memories of her mother. My favorite quote: “I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” (seriously. chills.)

    Hm. I should probably post all that I wrote to my crit group as my own blog post about this book, since I love it so much. ;)

    My crit partner, Melissa, had this to say: “For me, this book was not a love story between Lena & Alex. It was a love story between Lena & her mother”, and I SO agree!

    • Genna Sarnak on said:

      Great insight, Liza! I also love that quote, it sends goosebumps down my body everytime I read. Thanks for sharing your book group thoughts and ideas! :)

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  11. kimba88 on said:

    I saw your review for book 2 on goggle+ through a fellow blogger and had to read book ones review. This looks awesome and I excited that book 2 is just as good if not better. HarperCollins is on a roll with hot new authors. I will be picking this one up and reviewing them both for my blog. Thanks for sharing, you have a lovely blog and I am now following you on networked blogs.

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