Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

by renata

I’m in my library school’s YA book club, where a bunch of overwhelmingly female library students (and a few actual librarians) get together and overanalyze YA books. YA book club is where I go to realize that all of my opinions about Katniss Everdeen are minority opinions.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Anyway, this month we read Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I was tentatively interested in this–I had loved Oliver’s first book, Before I Fall, which is a really well done Mean Girls/Groundhog Day kind of thing. It’s good. If you like realistic contemporary fiction, go read Before I Fall. Read it quick, before technology changes and makes it outdated. Go!

But Delirium, a dystopia where love is classified as an illness and “cured” with mandatory brain surgery, is not like Before I Fall, which is okay–authors shouldn’t write the same kind of books over and over. But part of why I liked Before I Fall is because the high school felt very real to me. I had no trouble buying into the world, even with its Groundhog Day scenario. Unfortunately, Delirium‘s world is not quite so well defined.

I kept comparing it unfavorably to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy–unfairly, too, since I’ve read all three Uglies (but not the fourth one, Extras, I’ll get around to it, okay?) and Delirium is book one of an eventual trilogy. She has two more books to flesh out this dystopia. But on book one alone, I just didn’t buy it. Scott Westerfeld did a masterful job of researching and creating the Uglies world, even if its concept (a world where ugliness is cured by mandatory plastic surgery) is basically as weird as a world where love is cured by brain surgery. There are too many inconsistencies in Oliver’s world and I never fully bought into it.

My favorite Delirium

My favorite Delirium

Also, when I see a book called Delirium, I really want it to be about Neil Gaiman’s Delirium.

But nevermind that. Delirium isn’t all bad. The protagonist, Lena, felt very real and likeable. Her reactions to the world felt real, even if the world itself did not.

I should also report that just about everyone else at YA book club liked this book more than I did–though when I went through and pointed out all the ways in which the dystopia makes no sense, pretty much everyone agreed. (For example: their symptoms of love-as-illness all pretty clearly describe romantic love. So why does their cure also destroy parental love? Why would you do that? Or if there is some kind of purpose, why then wouldn’t the children be raised collectively in a commune or something, so fewer adults would have to interact with these children they don’t care about? And also, Oliver, your two-sentence dismissal of the gays really doesn’t work for me. And also… well, never mind.) Everyone else just cared less about the inconsistencies. Sorry guys! I like my dystopias like I like my coffee: coherent. But still, when the second book comes out, I’ll probably read it, if only to see if Oliver explains more about how this world actually works.

Also to see what happens with Lena and her ~*true love*~ Alex. (Because, sorry, I forgot to say that she fell in love with a boy mere weeks before she was scheduled to be cured! But also I kind of thought it went without saying that of course she did.) The book ends on a very dramatic note for the two of them, and I’m sure the next book will pick up on that.

Delirium + fish balloon = love

Overall, I rate Delirium three fish balloons out of a possible five.

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