I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 3rd 2011
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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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 government 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.
I have said this before and I’ll say it again. I have no problem with an implausible story vehicle. As long as the ride is good and it relates a moral or philosophical value.
But where the line is drawn is when the world isn’t consistent and in the confines of that world, things don’t make sense.
That’s my limit. That’s when I start getting frustrated and annoyed. And it’s not because an author tried something new, okay? Lauren Oliver is AMAZING. She is a great author who is erudite and verbose and interesting to listen to. I’ve seen her speak live and frankly to an audience and her ability to relate to them and express herself is fantastic.
But this novel still didn’t work for me. Delirium, unfortunately, failed for me. Which is saddening, because Lauren Oliver is a good author and I know, with Delirium, she was reaching out and trying something different. I just wish it had been more successful.
Now, here’s where it all buggered up:
1. Inconsistent world building.
The main protagonist says the word “love” twice. Once in conversation and the second time mentally. Love is a concept that’s stigmatized to such an extreme degree that even the whispered word “sympathizer” is verboten. Yet the main protagonist SAYS it to her aunt – that she LOVES children. It just doesn’t make sense. And she’s wandering around with Alex and making out with him in public like the consequence for that is a slap on the wrist. Look, she lives in a highly autocratic world where even a hint of the disease will land you in prison – and she makes out with her boyfriend in the middle of public places.
I loved the characterization of Lena. I thought it was accurate and realistic. It’s the characterization of Alex that left me hollow and empty. He felt like a place-holder. Simply a textbook demonstration of today’s YA expectations of a love interest. Devoted, stalkerish, sad back story. Oliver’s love interest in Before I Fall was so much more dynamic even though he comprised a relatively small part in the story. Alex felt like a definition of desirable love interest instead of actually being a person Lena fell in love with.
I never thought I’d say this because, in my mind, Oliver is – and always will be – a fantastic writer. But there were aspects of the writing in this book that were obvious, cliche and simplistic. For example, Lena is emotionally stunted but it’s an obvious parallel. Whenever she feels intense emotion she blames it on the air conditioning or weather etc. She is the result of a childhood of emotional detachment – but not really – and this is where it gets personal for me.
Because, if you don’t religiously read my reviews, then you wouldn’t know that my son was almost diagnosed with Attachment Disorder. Because when my first son was born, I was one of those weird religious people that ascribed to books like Baby Wise, etc. For the first six months of his life, he barely looked at me in the eye. Attachment disorder babies are those that, from their infancy, do not experience consistent, loving care. They are children that learn, early on, that they are not truly loved and this results in a wide swath of behavioral and emotional problems.
Lena is the result of a childhood that had a mother who loves her and responded accordingly to her needs, but other children in the society didn’t receive this – something that I felt was a huge cope-out. What about the characterization of a person who wasn’t loved? Who was a product of the system? I feel like this wasn’t examined enough – wasn’t inspected enough. Like it was handled by someone who just assumed that children would still reflect some modicum of normality after being raised in a world where they aren’t being lovingly raised by people properly attached to them. And the assumption that you can have attachment without love – it’s mind boggling because I kind of feel like she was out of her depth on this one.
It’s not Oliver’s fault. But what I wanted from this is a deeper understanding of society from the point of view of someone willing to delve into a harder, grittier, more realistic story. Someone willing to ask the tough questions and write the tough characterization. Instead the novel glosses over a lot of those things and thus felt cheap and shallow.