Friday, February 11, 2011

Delirium (YA)

Delirium. Lauren Oliver. 2011. February 2011. HarperCollins.  441 pages.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone. ~ Hal David, What The World Needs Now, 1965
First sentence: It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure. Everyone else in my family has had the procedure already. My older sister, Rachel, has been disease free for nine years now. She's been safe from love for so long, she says she can't remember its symptoms. I'm scheduled to have my procedure in exactly ninety-five days, on September 3. My birthday. 

Lauren Oliver has created a world without love in her newest YA novel, Delirium. It stars a teen girl, Lena, who falls in love with a guy, Alex, in the last weeks of her freedom, for when Lena turns eighteen, she will receive "the cure" like everyone else. No longer will she be diseased by this thing called love, this destructive force that robs men and women of their reason and logic. When the novel opens, Lena, though susceptible, has not fallen prey to love. (It helps that contact between uncured guys and girls are extremely limited.) But on her Evaluation Day, something happens. Two things really. One, a herd of cows charges through the labs--the building--where the exams are being conducted. Two, someone--a cute boy--winks at her. Can you guess which one has the biggest impact?

Lena is afraid of love, no doubt about it. Her family's history has led her to fear the worst. When she was just six, Lena's mom committed suicide just days before her fourth attempt to be cured. For one reason, or another, the cure just didn't work on her mom. And her mom almost seemed happy about this. Though she had lost her husband, she cherished her memories of him. And above all else, she loved her two kids. She loved singing to them, playing with them, tickling them, laughing with them, hugging and kissing them. In everything she said and did, she showed she cared. But since love was a disease, since love was illegal, Lena is almost ashamed that her childhood had so many happy moments. All her happiest moments should not have happened. For if her mom was normal, chances are she'd still be alive. And Lena's cousin, Gracie, has also suffered from love. For her mom and dad were suspected of being sympathizers and arrested. Gracie will never know her mother. And since her home has been torn apart, Gracie hasn't said one single word. So, yes, Lena has her reasons for her fear.

Will Lena's seventeenth summer be her summer of love? Will she fall in love with the boy who winked at her? Will she fall in love with the boy who encouraged her to listen to music and dance? Will this summer be her happiest yet? Can she be happy knowing that it can never last? That no matter how much she protests, she'll be cured in September? That she'll be expected to live her life according to someone else's plan?

While Delirium is very much a teen romance, it is an interesting premise for a dystopian novel. Because this "cure" does more than prevent broken hearts and passion. For it treats not just romantic love, but all forms of love and desire. It impacts marriages, yes, but it also impact all family relationships. It removes the loving bond between parents and children, between siblings--at least after one of them has received the cure. These "new" families will have no loving parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. There will be no one to "model" love or affection to these children growing up in this strange, new world. (Unless a parent is "invalid" and can't be cured.) Friendships among adults are also impacted. As are hobbies, habits, and tastes. Imagine not being able to love anything. Of course, what you'd feel the most is the loss of love in human relationships. But I can't imagine not being able to love reading, listening to music, or the pleasure of savoring dark chocolate. Without love, there can be no joy in any aspect of your life.

The more you "love" Romeo and Juliet, the more you'll appreciate Delirium. I didn't love Delirium because it was a romance novel. It's not particularly better or worse than others I've read in the genre. (Some make me more giddy than others. Alex was no Marcus Flutie.)  But I did enjoy it as a dystopian novel. I enjoyed it because it was thought-provoking.

Favorite lines:

That's the real reason she doesn't speak. All the rest of her words are crowded out by that single, looming one, a word still echoing in the dark corners of her memory. Mommy. I know. I remember. (41)

I'm momentarily distracted by the way he says my name. In his mouth it sounds musical, not clunky and angular, the way my teachers have always made it sound. His eyes are a warm amber color, and as I look at him I have a sudden, flashing memory of my mother pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes. (61)

Snapshots, moments, mere seconds: as fragile and beautiful and hopeless as a single butterfly, flapping on against a gathering wind. (263)

Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That's what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side. Before and after--and during, a moment no bigger or longer than an edge. (301)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


SunTiger said...

I'd like to know what you thought was most thought provoking? (You are braver than me ... I tend not to wander outside my favorite genres for reading.)

Becky said...

The concept of living life without any love, desire, attachment, or affection. Especially when it comes to family life. Expected by society to have a couple of kids, but being unable to bond with them?! Just thinking about what it would be like to live in this kind of society--that's what made me think. I was thinking big picture--beyond Lena, beyond Alex.

Kailana said...

I am not sure if this is for me, but it does sound interesting at the same time. I might see if the library has it at some point...

DogEar said...

Ah, Marcus Flutie! Can I tell you how hard I fell for that boy? One of the best YA romances.

Not sure Delirium is for me, though. Sounds like a Twilight Zone episode I saw as a kid.