So, the new genre of dystopian romance is here to stay. Apparently, paranormal romance formula I-can’t-be-with-you-cause-I-might-kill-you is getting old, so now we will be bombarded with trilogies showcasing new formula I-can’t-be-with-you-cause-this-bad-dystopian-world-is-tearing-us-apart. Delirium by Lauren Oliver definitely fits this new genre of Dystopian Romance.
Here is how the summary goes like:
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.
I am loving dystopias, this is the next I’ve read after The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Wither by debutante author Lauren DeStefano (which wasn’t really the greatest dystopian setting if compared to the hunger games besides the concept of the story) and I love how authors take current social and political trends and extrapolate them into future showing to us what can happen if these trends persist. The versions of future envisioned by Margaret Atwood built upon consequences of excessive genetic engineering or Paolo Bacigalupi’s - upon global warming and exhaustion of natural resources - are plausible and horrifying(i have yet to read their works but have already come across a lot about them to state these facts). Lauren Oliver’s dystopia is based on a premise that love is considered to be a serious, life-threatening sickness, and thus outlawed. Outlawing love, apparently, solves all world problems. Apparently Love is supposed to much more dangerous and lethal than disease like cancer.
The one great quality for this book was the articulated prose construction by the author. She writes like seasoned pro. I read her sentences and thought that here is a woman who was truly born to write. Some of the best portions of the novel were the chapter epigraphs relating propaganda, children’s rhymes, and ‘banned material’ from the actual society within the book. Here’s an example of one I loved, mixing prose and horror into a perfect example of the fears and stigmas of this society:
Mama, Mama, help me get home I’m out in the woods, I am out on my own. I found me a werewolf, a nasty old mutt It showed me its teeth and went straight for my gut.
Mama, Mama, help me get home I’m out in the woods, I am out on my own. I was stopped by a vampire, a rotting old wreck It showed me its teeth, and went straight for my neck.
Mama, Mama, put me to bed I won’t make it home, I’m already half-dead. I met an Invalid, and fell for his art He showed me his smile, and went straight for my heart.
The nursery rhyme shows what the society fears most of all: love and its power. The problem was that I didn’t feel the fear myself, just the aftershocks of what Lena was going through. Thus, it felt rather so-so to me.
The entire story follows Lena as she very gradually comes to terms with the realities of her dystopian world. This is to be expected. It is the first book in a dystopian trilogy, so naturally the first book is the “awakening” part of the story. It may just be me, but I often find these books boring. I want to get to the action! I want to see the main character fight against the dystopian society. I don’t want to spend an entire book watching them hesitate back and forth between the-world-is-good/the-world-is-bad when I the reader already know the world is definitely bad (hey, it’s a dystopian!).
Especially when they do this over the course of 400+ pages. Despite the fact that the writing is beautiful to read, I felt like screaming at Lena to figure it out already. There wasn’t any question that Lena would eventually turn against her society (she has to; there would be nothing to write in the rest of the trilogy if she just went along with things), so it was especially frustrating to spend so much time reading about her indecision. I also had a hard time liking and connecting with Lena as a result of this.
While there were a few truly shocking and notable scenes (particularly the spectacular ending!), by the end of the book, we know very little that we didn’t already know from the jacket description. I just don’t think that should be the case in such a lengthy book. To me, that indicates that the book could have been shortened considerably, and I think I would have enjoyed this book more if that had been the case.
Now, I can buy a world where strong emotions are suppressed. People in such world would be subdued and docile, and thus lack drive for power and violence. But love? Really? The characters in this book cured of love, still get aggravated, annoyed, worried. They just don’t love their spouses and kids. And retain almost all other emotions.
And the “horrible” consequences such premise brings about - neighborhood patrols, segregated (by sex) schools, arranged marriages, the horror! If, according to the author, this society is so constrictive, why is it so easy for teens to avoid curfews, to have parties with alcohol, to meet up in abandoned houses for some schmexy times, to fake being “cured” of love, to breach supposedly guarded borders? What is written to be scary and menacing in the Delirium’s society just isn’t. As a dystopia, this novel fails completely. The only aspect of the setting that is interesting is that how author twists Christian mythos to adapt to the love-is-a-dangerous-sickness premise.
The power of the story itself lies in the love story — of course there is supposed to be one! — and even that felt lukewarm to me. I get teenage love, seeming so invincible and unquenchable at first, but — again — the love story seemed too easy. I like my conflict and angst, but they weren’t really present here! I felt as if I were in a boat rolling gently downstream when I had expected the boat to meet crashing waves and swirling whirlpools. Basically, the love story let me down.
Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.
But that isn’t it, exactly.
The condemner and the condemned. The executioner; the blade; the last-minute reprieve; the gasping breath and the rolling sky above you and thethank you, thank you, thank you, God.
Love: It will kill you and save you, both.
Overall, I would recommend this book more to people who like love stories than those who love dystopians. Though I really adore dystopians like The Hunger Games, I could never rank this one among them. I will be reading the sequels to find out what happens in the story, though, so I guess that’s saying something. Delirium just seems destined to be a book that will make readers feel emotions all over the spectrum.