Delirium — Lauren Oliver

3/5 stars
Goodreads summary: THEY SAY that the cure for Love will make me happy and safeforever. And I’ve always believed them. Until now.

Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected
with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.


In their song “Stubborn Love,” The Lumineers say that the opposite of love is indifference. They also say, “It’s better to hurt than feel nothing at all.” And I believe that. Having experienced love and heartbreak and, on a separate occasion, having endured weeks of complete emotional numbness (wooooo!), I would pick the agony of feeling too deeply over feeling nothing every time.

And in Delirium, that is the question: To feel or not to feel? In Lena’s dystopian world, an operation is performed on everyone when they reach eighteen, in which the ability to love—and thus feel passion, compassion, jealousy, hatred, etc.—is removed from one’s brain. Parents don’t love their children; they just raise them. Marriages aren’t based on love or even like; they are based on a matching system which takes interests, evaluation score, and financial status into account. And after you’re Cured you’ll never have to miss a lost loved one or have nightmares again. The world is split into two factions, the Cured and the Uncured, and anyone who doesn’t conform—whether by choice or a biological inability—is imprisoned or killed. Deliriumfollows Lena on her last summer as an Uncured and explores whether it is better to feel or to be safe from the hurt which comes with love and loss.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Since the premise seemed interesting enough and my library had it available to borrow as an ebook, I said “shrug” and did a 21 day rental. Then I read every other book imaginable until day 20, when I decided to give this one a go. The problem with that method was that I got really into it right when my rental expired, at which point I hied to the library an hour before it closed to grab the last physical copy they had because I had to know what happened next.

Lauren Oliver has a way with words. There are a lot of fluttery descriptions of love and eyes meeting and head tilting and so on, but for the most part there’s just a sort of magical, poetic style that sucked me into the world of Delirium:

“My heart is drumming in my chest so hard it aches, but it’s the good kind of ache, like the feeling you get on the first real day of autumn, when the air is crisp and the leaves are all flaring at the edges and the wind smells just vaguely of smoke—like the end and the beginning of something all at once.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it?

“And still the sun rises and clouds mass and drift and people shop for groceries and toilets flush and blinds go up and down. That’s when you realize that most of it—life, the relentless mechanism of existing—isn’t about you. It doesn’t include you at all. It will thrust onward even after you’ve jumped the edge. Even after you’re dead.”

A little darker, yes, but well said.

That’s not to say there aren’t flaws with the world-building. First of all, I’m not a neuroscientist or anything, but how are they doing this? I got the impression the doctors only remove the portion of your brain that loves. Is that possible? Or is it just one area which controls all emotion? Wouldn’t removing that piece of your brain cause permanent brain damage to everyone, not just a small percentage? Would it make more sense to plant a microchip or something in each person’s head? (I could probably easily solve this with some research but I’m feeling lazy.)

And these two seem to fall in love really easily. I don’t quite buy that this was Twoo Wuv for Lena and Alex because it happened so rapidly. It was more like infatuation, attraction, mutual liking. I mean Alex has been raised differently than most kids, yeah, but Lena? I can’t imagine, after spending my entire life forbidden to love, meeting a guy and telling him I love him less than a month later. Or even being able to wrap my mind around the concept of loving him. Maybe it’s because of that lack of experience that she falls in love so quickly?

In that and other ways, Lena seems weak and young, but for the most part it’s understandable. As I said in my review of Hana, in a world where the ability to love or feel any sort of passion is taken away from you at eighteen and you spend your life isolated from the opposite sex, you’re going to be young for your age. It’s like going through puberty at eighteen, with all the confusion and urges and naivety but hopefully less acne. I still wanted to shake her at times, but for the most part I thought her shifting worldviews were handled very realistically. And she has her redeeming moments of willfulness and strength:

“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear.”

So overall, I liked her. I liked Hana. Alex isn’t on my Leading Men I Have Loved list or anything, but he was okay. The pacing was good; I felt involved enough in the story that I ran out and got a fresh copy immediately when my DRM rights expired. There were some places near the end when I wanted the book to move faster but that was mostly because I was so anxious to read Pandemonium. Most of all, I loved the premise of coming of age in a world where emotion is forbidden. Part of me regrets not starting this series sooner, but most of me is glad I waited since Requiem will be here soon.


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