by Lauren Oliver
reviewed by Fiona Stayton
Throughout history, poets, playwrights and musicians have written of love as the greatest power in the world, but always for good. In the dystopian society of Delirium, however, that power has been flipped upside down and taken to the extreme. Looked at as having caused wars and destruction, love has become more of a weapon than a tool for good.
Lauren Oliver’s novel perfectly illustrates how society can indoctrinate a whole town. The tyrannical government that rules a post-apocalyptic United States has decided that love, known as amor deliria nervosa, rather than hate is the root of all things destructive. Around the age of 18, when a citizen shows signs of any sort of love, he or she is given a test to determine the extent of infection and then a surgical cure. If you end up failing the test or the government finds out you have loved or are in love, you will be known as an “Invalid” and banished from the community. Those who live outside this walled up world are known as the Wilds.
Lena Haloway, our narrator, has been persuaded through books that love is the enemy; she has been longing to take the test and get the surgery. After her mother tragically committed suicide, due to the infection of love, Lena had decided that she would never fall in love. Her best friend, Hana, however, feels differently. Beautiful and popular, Hana slowly makes it apparent to Lena that she is more obsessed with the Wilds than with the surgery.
Before her scheduled surgery, Lena meets a boy named Alex who has already had his capacity to love removed. Or so Lena thinks. Months before Lena’s surgery, however, it is apparent that she has fallen in love with Alex.
Like the best writers of fantasy and science fiction, Oliver draws the reader in by creating a detailed and vivid world populated by characters to which it is easy to connect. I found myself so engaged with Lena’s character I did not question or become distracted by the abnormality of her situation. Oliver’s skill in describing how Lena felt in every situation made it seem as if I was part of her story.
When I began reading this book, my first thought was that it seemed like a cross between Divergent and The Hunger Games. I wasn’t sure if I hated or loved that idea, so I kept reading. Slowly, I got caught up in the drama, feeling anger towards the government and conflict between loving and hating Lena’s decisions.
We have all been in situations where it would be easier to run from our problems rather than face them. Lena, however, proves what seems like the impossible. She proves that facing your problems is the best choice when it comes to any situation.