11 April, 2011

Delirium - Review

Delirium by Lauren Oliver 

Publication date: 1 February, 2011 from Harper Teen 

ISBN 10/13: 0061726826 / 9780061726828

Category: Young Adult Dystopian

Format: Hardcover (eARC from Netgalley)

Keywords: Futuristic, fantasy, love, lust, romance

"They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't." 

How I found out about this book: It was pretty much love at first sight (read: "I judged it by its cover.") Still, when I got on the exercise bike for the first time this year, I could not tell if my heart was beating fast because of the bike or because of the story unfolding on the eReader I had propped up in front of me.

Alethea's review: Lena Holoway is counting the days until she'll be safe from the worst disease ever to afflict mankind: Love. In her world scientists call it amor deliria nervosa, and Lena suffers its stigma not just for being a susceptible teenager, but because her mother died--killed herself--rather than live without it. Other places in the world still suffer; but the tightly patrolled enclaves like Lena's Portland are free of it except for the rare case of someone's physiology resisting The Cure. Lena's doing her best not to become one of those anomalies. Her rebellious best friend Hana and a mysterious boy named Alex are definitely not helping her achieve that goal.  

The chapters begin with short excerpts from various cultural sources like The Book of Shhh (The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook), children's playground singsongs, and history books; I think that anyone who reads these and finds them clever can immerse themselves in this uncomfortable world and get the most out of this story. That's certainly the effect they had on me. The sterile tone with which they remind young people (as early as the nursery, mind!) that apathy is good and emotion is evil really sent chills up my spine, helping to set the tone of dread that creeps into the last half of the book.

Later in the book, Lena goes into this sort of clichéd horror-movie mode which, for the easily frustrated reader, will probably result in book-throwing or growling; for the right reader it will result in nails being bitten to the quick. For me, it really emphasized the usually negligible lag between pressing the Next Page button and the actual rendering of the page on my eReader--my eyes were trying to fly faster than the words on the page. 

Delirium also provides a great jumping-off point for discussions of science versus religion and the value (as well as the costs) of humanity. Oliver manages to illustrate irrationality in science, or is it the devotion with which the general population treats it that makes science the bad guy in this book? (Comment below if you want to open that can of worms with me.) 

If you would prefer a much more adult novel that discusses this, I highly recommend The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I think it handles both the aspect of love and the interconnectedness of science and faith--but it's definitely not for tender, innocent readers. Delirium is, especially for those who still believe that love finds ways to surmount any obstacle. Other books you may enjoy include Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Matched by Ally Condie, and if you're really hard to please, The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Delirium is Lauren Oliver's 2nd YA novel. Pandemonium (Delirium, Book 2) will be published in February 2012.

Visit the author online at www.laurenoliverbooks.com and follow her on twitter @oliverbooks.

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/rnslAmor 

Find this book on goodreads.com, watch an author video at harperteen.com, or buy it now

Comments? What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)


  1. I totally agree with you--I just couldn't read Delirium fast enough! I'll definitely have to check out the Margaret Atwood book that you mentioned. I really like the subject matter of Delirium, so I'll probably enjoy the book you recommended, too! :)

  2. I have this book on my radar as well. I read her first novel, 'Before I Fall' and adored it. Very, very good writing to make me care about such an unsympathetic character.