by Lauren Oliver
Release Date: February 2011
This was my first Lauren Oliver read, and I started the book with fairly high expectations. I’d heard that Lauren Oliver’s books were compelling, vivid, and very emotional stories that drew the reader in and gripped them until the end.
In this case? Mostly true. My main issue with this novel was the premise: The United States has decided that love is a disease, and youth undergo a procedure at eighteen to "cure" them of the possibility of ever catching the disease. Marriages are matched by algorithm, and anyone showing signs of the disease is captured and forced to undergo treatment again and again (mind you, this element plays a major role in the plot, so I don’t want to say much more).
Now, while this is an interesting approach to building a dystopian society, I simply had trouble with the plausibility of it all. We don’t really learn why and how the United States decided that love was a disease, and I find that if I don’t have a clear explanation of how a dystopian society becomes dystopian, I stop caring. If it can’t be explained to me, there’s no logical reason for what’s happening, and I get frustrated.
Beyond that, the issue of eliminating love is so much more complicated than the way it’s presented here. Oliver touches on the inevitability of certain mothers being unable to "bond" with their children and thus needing to be removed from them… or some people committing suicide because of the apathy they develop… but I honestly think she downplayed this aspect. I know it’s for the sake of the story, but if mothers didn’t love their children, or teachers didn’t love the kids they taught, or if no one loved their job, the world would become a very dysfunctional place very quickly.
So for me, the premise was flawed and I didn’t buy it.
However… the actual writing, and the story, and the characters? Beautiful. Oliver has this incredible ability to write so smoothly that you’ll be halfway through the book before you’ve taken a second breath. Her style is clear and to the point, not flowery or melodramatic, allowing you to be drawn in without even realizing it. Honestly, even with all the flaws I mentioned above, I will be reading the second book, if only for the author’s ability to create characters that you really want to cheer for, and for her ability to make the words simply flow across the page like water.
About the Author
Lauren Oliver is the author of Before I Fall, which ALA Booklist called a "compelling book with a powerful message [that] should not be missed." A graduate of the University of Chicago and the MFA program at New York University, Lauren is now a full-time writer and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Delirium is her second novel.