15 March 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I’ve always believed them.

Until now.

Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

From bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes the first book in a stunning new trilogy set in a dystopian world. Prepare to be captivated!

Although this book was technically spectacular, I really didn't like it. I think if I were a teenager, though, I would love it. This is really one of those rare books that wasn't able to cross the age gap in my head. It's sad, really, that I've got such a mental block against it because this book had a lot of things going for it. Lena is an amazing character. She is a mature teenager, with all the layered nuances that goes along with that. She's not an adult with a younger body but mature thought processes, and yet she's also not an adult's construction of a teenager's brain. From what we see of him Alex is well thought out as well. His actions and reactions are typical of a teenage boy discovering relationships. With a little imagination the dystopian world created is believable as well (that is, if you can buy into the unspoken inference that emotionless people are easier to bend to your will).

However, two things stuck out to me as odd in this book. The characters imply that the "cure" takes away all emotions. Now, granted that we haven't actually experienced the cure in a major character, just Lena's mixed views of it. However, it seems odd to me that the operation doesn't "cure" rage, suspicion, and terror. I guess I was expecting a society of vulcans, and the result is stranger because people have negative emotions without the balance of positive ones. Perhaps this is because Oliver is better versed in brain mapping and capabilities than I am, and it is in fact possible to separate the two in the brain. I'd really like them to explain, however, why they left the negative emotions alone instead of excising them all.

The other issue I had with this book, and the major one from my point of view, was the representations of love. Oliver presents a very one-sided, teenage view of love. There's not much separation of passion from love, there's no exploration of long-term devotion, and there's little more shown outside of love-at-first-sight sparks and fireworks. Even Lena's mom is presented as loving Lena's Dad too much to go on living without him, even with the 'love' she was capable of feeling towards her children (which is illustrated well in a story, but not explained). It's also not explored as a layered issue. Lena's mother killed herself because she missed Lena's father, not because she had endured two sessions of brain surgery and was facing a third, or that her government viewed her as "subversive" and a criminal, or that she had to hide her true self and live in a constant state of fear, or that . . . well, we'll just stop there, I think you get the picture. My only hope is that the book is planned as the first of a trilogy, so perhaps these are issues that the author will get to in time and I'm just too impatient. I will probably pick up the next book for the series-completionist in me, but I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to other people.

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