23 October 2012

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

SYNOPSIS: 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 government 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.

REVIEW: Fun facts before you read my review:

1) I didn't know it had a large readership.
2) I actually bought a hardbound copy of this book.
3) It took me three tries in a span of 13 months before I actually finished it.

I actually like the idea Lauren Oliver had for Delirium: Love's a disease and there's a cure for it. Not to sound emo but I think it's a great concept. However I think Oliver had trouble with the execution. It took me three weeks to finish the book the third time I read it because the first part of the book was a bit dragging. It only got interesting for me halfway through the book, and it still wasn't engaging enough for me to finish it faster. 

The Setting

Personally I think dystopia-themed novels, such as The Hunger Games and 1984, are always interesting to read. Unfortunately Delirium fell short in terms of creating a solid picture of the world the protagonist, Lena, lives in. Don't get me wrong, I get the general idea: love's a curable disease, the city's closed off, you get evaluated and paired off to a suitable partner in order to promote balance in society yada yada yada. Problem was, Oliver failed to make a big deal out of the twisted system the US was operating; there wasn't a higher sense of urgency. And because of that the setting became too soft for me. Almost like I didn't feel that the problem needed to be solved anyway, like the system's working and Lena's just being irrational. 

Another reason why the setup didn't do it for me was the lack of a concrete antagonist. In my opinion, there always has to be an antagonist very much present in dystopian literature. In Delirium, it's clear that the government is behind it all however there's no one person embodying the system.

The Characters

The Lena and Hana friendship is a bit cliché for me. The way they're different, Hana being the perfect one and Lena being the plain one, has been used too much in YA novels. I get that Lena had to be portrayed as ordinary so falling in love will create an impact on her self-esteem but using the cliché friendship to establish that didn't really click for me. Also I can't quite understand what made Alex fall in love with Lena. I know some love stories are purposefully written that way but I'm the type of reader who wants and has to see what made A fall in love with B. 

Individually though I appreciate the balance of characters in the book - nobody was too good to be true. I like that Lena was believably ordinary. I like that Carol's neither overbearing nor lax to the point of being irrelevant. I like how cool Alex is but not too cool as if he's the author's real life frustration. I like Hana's enthusiasm in trying out "illegal" things like listening to unapproved music or going to secret raves. Although come to think of it, Hana behaves like she's infected but it's clear that she doesn't have a love interest..... or does she. Heh.

Individually, characters are okay. But overall? I didn't connect with them.

The Conflict

Now I get why the biggest (the way I saw it) conflict was placed towards the end of the book - in preparation for Pandemonium (the sequel). However in dystopian novels I feel that the main conflict should be the dystopia itself which, like I said, wasn't made into such a big deal. To me, the story lacked grounding because of this hence the conflict didn't add much to my enjoyment. Conflicts suck, essentially, but they have to be there in order for the reader to really get into the story.

The Writing

I always criticize a writer's style/technique because it's one of the biggest things I easily notice whether it's good or bad. I didn't like the way Delirium was written. Some parts were too dragging because of the long (descriptive) paragraphs that weren't even that helpful to the story. And I don't know if it's just my lack of imagination or the descriptions weren't that good but some parts of the town and of the Wilds were hard to picture. 


In conclusion, I thought Delirium was okay. It didn't give me the hangover effect but it has merits. I love how it ended though (and I'm not about to spoil it for everyone) so I'm not sure if I'll read the 2nd book, Pandemonium. It might ruin the series or book for me.

Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver comes from a family of writers and so has always (mistakenly) believed that spending hours in front of the computer every day, mulling over the difference between “chortling” and “chuckling,” is normal. She has always been an avid reader. 

She attended the University of Chicago, where she continued to be as impractical as possible by majoring in philosophy and literature. After college, she attended the MFA program at NYU and worked briefly as the world’s worst editorial assistant, and only marginally better assistant editor, at a major publishing house in New York. Her major career contributions during this time were flouting the corporate dress code at every possible turn and repeatedly breaking the printer. Before I Fall is her first published novel. 

She is deeply grateful for the chance to continue writing, as she has never been particularly good at anything else.


  1. You are so right. The setting is soft. It's a perfect way to describe it. And there really is no Antagonist. I never thought of that.

    Great review. I felt the same way.

    1. Great minds think alike I guess. Tee hee. Thanks for dropping by, Jennifer!