Book Review: Delirium

Though the number of dystopian novels is on the rise, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium breaks through the mould and redefines itself as a love story first and foremost set to a dystopian background. The world in which Delirium is set plays its formidable part in the story but underneath that world lays burning questions about love and how it is perceived in the real world, away from fiction.

‘It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected the cure’ is the opening line of this book and immediately thrusts us into the world of Delirium. To the people of this world, love – or amor deliria nervosa as it is known – is something that needs to be eradicated. It is a danger that causes chaos, instability and ultimately, death.

At the age of eighteen, one must undergo a procedure that will rid them of love – be it familial, romantic, or otherwise and, based on an evaluation, one is matched with a partner whom they will marry after college and start a family with. Lena Haloway is impatiently waiting for the day that she will be “cured” and safe from the effects of the disease. She wants nothing to do with love because of what it has done to her family. Her mother died at the hands of the disease after three procedures failed to wipe out the infection and Lena fears the same end for herself and wants nothing more than to be at a point where she is untouched by the illness. That is, of course, until she meets Alex and her whole perception changes.

Alex is from the Wilds – a place outside of the confines of where Lena lives, untouched by the “cure” – and shows her the benefits of having love and being in love with someone. Now, Lena wants nothing more to feel what she feels when she is around him but with her procedure date looming, she must find a way to be with the person she loves.

The first thing that strikes you about this novel is the writing. Lauren Oliver has the ability to string words together like poetry and use such rich, vivid imagery and language that one cannot help but be sucked into the world. But what is of particular note is how she perfectly captures and writes completely relatable characters. Though the setting may be fantastical and noticeably different to society today, the characters of Lena and her best friend Hana, especially, could be from any time and any setting as they both struggle with universal problems and feelings. Being able to relate to the characters makes this novel so much more appealing to the reader.

Another noteworthy element of Delirium is the setting. Oliver has created an oppressive and restricted society where a curfew exists for all those under eighteen, regulators wander the streets daily, and spontaneous raids are enacted so as to make sure there is no sign of amor deliria nervosa running rampant and undetected. Her “quotations” from the official rules and regulations at the start of each chapter enable the reader to gain a better picture of the society in which Lena lives and though the main plot revolves around Lena and Alex and their blossoming love, the limitations of society are always lurking in the background. Sometimes it can be difficult to imagine the world in which the character lives because it can be so different from reality, but Oliver has managed to overcome that obstacle and still present characters that we can root for.

Furthermore, the exploration of love from not just a romantic viewpoint was a nice touch. Through Lena it is explained that the “cure” does not only disentangle you from the realm of romance, but it also cuts through friendships and familial relationships. Both Lena and Hana know that they won’t be best friends once they turn eighteen and undergo the procedure and that knowledge causes a strain in their relationship. Parents sometimes find it difficult to connect with their children because their capacity to be compassionate and lovable has been taken away. Families stick together out of obligation rather than out of love. To the readers, it serves as a message that love touches practically everything and once removed, nothing is ever the same. It is an interesting message that simmers under the plot throughout the book.

At 393 pages long, Delirium is definitely worth a read. It is an emotionally-charged, beautifully written story about love and its effect on the world. And, the ending of the book leaves the door anxiously open for the next book in the series.

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