Delirium (2011) is the first book in a teen dystpoian trilogy by Lauren Oliver. Lena Haloway is a seventeen-year-old girl living in a distorted futuristic version of Portland, Maine. In the new United States society, love is considered a toxic disease, and citizens are “cured” of it via brain surgery once they turn eighteen. Lena is counting down the days to her procedure, when she’ll finally be “safe.”
But Lena holds a secret. Though her mom had the operation multiple times, she was never cured, ultimately leading to her mom’s suicide. Now, Lena is afraid that she, too, will become susceptible to the delirium – which indeed happens when she meets Alex, a disguised “Invalid” from the illegal Wilds beyond the society’s border.
I was highly intrigued in the first act. By far, the highlight of this novel is Lena’s relationship with her best friend, Hana. However, I started to lose interest in the second, and especially by the third act. I just didn’t feel connected to Alex; he and Lena never really seemed to do anything to compel them to fall in love, so I couldn’t become absorbed in the romance. As for Lena, I couldn’t relate to her character or her decision-making. I’m also not sure I understood how the “cured” adults in this society could still care about each other and experience some range of emotions (including the desire for their children to be happy), when all basic human emotions were supposed to be eradicated by the procedure. If they are neurologically unable to feel love, attachments or compassion any longer, then how were they not all complete sociopaths?
That said, the writing is very good; poetic and easy to follow along with. Fans of dystopian trilogies like Divergent, The Hunger Games and Matched will find a similar story here and may want to look into this one.
“And God created the whole universe from an atom no bigger than a thought.” -p. 131
“…love will turn the whole world into something greater than itself.” -p. 234
“I’d rather die my way than live yours.” -p. 382