Delirium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've heard a number of writers say that the primary responsibility an author has is to keep readers turning pages. Lauren Oliver has certainly done that with her YA novel, Delirium. Oliver gets into the head of her main character, Lena, thoroughly and writes in a way that allows her readers to feel the world around this young woman. That world is a scary portrait of an out of control government.
The story is set in Portland, Maine, in a future time when the government forces people to have an operation at age eighteen, leaving them passive and compliant. The first sentence of Delirium reads:
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.
There are subversives, known as invalids, hidden among the population and more of them existing beyond the borders of the US in an area called The Wilds. When the novel begins Lena doesn't know much about the invalids, but she does know that her mother had some issues twelve years earlier. Those issues caused her mother to kill herself and left Lena to be raised by her Aunt Carol, a woman whose life revolves primarily around cooking and washing dishes.
There are scenes in the story that kept me on the edge of my seat with fear for what was happening to Lena. However, I had an issue with the believability of some of those scenes, because Lena seemed to bounce up from situations that should have hurt her seriously. I also had an issue with an escape that occurred later on in the work, when someone writes so hard on a cell wall that her marks go through the stone, without, of course, any of the guards noticing. Yet I could suspend disbelief enough in those scenes to stay involved with the story.
Lena changes and grows through the course of the novel and I loved sharing that experience with her. This is the first book of a trilogy, so even at the end she's still a bit whiny and very self centered. But there are hints she's growing out of those flaws and at one moment in the story she puts herself at risk in an attempt to help her friend Hana. She did it without a second thought. That was a wonderful scene.
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