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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith

Delirium (Delirium Trilogy 1)

Delirium (Delirium #1) - Lauren Oliver You know, it's always perplexed me how book trends work. Stephenie Meyer comes out with a vampire novel, and countless other authors released their own takes on the plain Jane x supernatural beastie who is actually a tortured, anguished soul soon afterwards. Dystopia is the current flavour of the month, it seems, thanks to the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games. Delirium is one of these, and it has a really cool concept, and the dystopia is described extremely well. In this world, love is not just an emotion, it's a disease latent in mankind and must be gotten rid of the moment you come of age. Having the surgery to get rid of amor deliria nervosa too early or too late results in various degrees of mental instability, so in an incredibly dickish move, the doctors in this new world insist that every eighteen year old gets it done as soon as possible. At the time in your life where falling in love is (apparently) the most important thing in the world. I smell a plot device!Yes, the plot gets going in the first fifty pages by our main character, Lena describing her past and her present life, and nervously sitting in the hospital before having this quick and simple surgery that will render her a happy mind slave in this perfect society. You know, love, a generally positive emotion that only sometimes has dire societal repercussions in the case of misunderstandings and other easily explainable quandaries, is what really needs to be eradicated from society.So Lena is sat waiting in the hospital with her best friend Hana and brooding to herself about love and how the society makes them get matched to boys and how she's worried about the horror stories where a young girl gets matched to a really old bloke, and all this other exposition that helps the story begin to move along. It felt a bit like a getting onto a bike and having someone gently trundle you along because, I don't know, imagine for the sake of this argument that you don't know how ride a bike. You're continually pushed along and then all of a sudden, you reach a steep hill. The person behind you smiles slyly and then pushes you down. You come off at the bottom, bruised and with a sore backside, crying out “what the heck just happened?”This is exactly how I felt when, all of a sudden, we had a herd of cows charging through the hospital. Lena is of course, confused, and assumes this mix up of deliveries is just a silly attack on society by the rebels who choose to live outside of its rules and conventions. Because you can quite easily mix up a delivery of cattle going to a slaughterhouse with a delivery of medical products going to a hospital.To be fair, this is dealt with later on (in that the guy who didn't check the cargo gets fired), but I was really into the dark aspect of Lena going into a cold, clinical room and having some unknown, painless yet painful operation performed on her that the random herd of cows really drew me out of the story and pissed me off.Not as much as Lena pissed me off when she decried love between the same sexes as being 'unnatural', but I'm willing to forgive her slightly for that if only because she was born and raised in this ridiculously conservative society where heteronormativity is the default option and there's no other way of getting out of it unless you want to be publicly remonstrated and tortured until you do submit in some government laboratory.Anyway, Hana starts to become a bit more rebellious around now as the date for their 'cure' operations get jigged around some. Hana starts going off the beaten path, visiting non government-sanctioned websites, finding out about parties that take place strictly after curfew, and Lena usually tags along. It's during one of Hana's rebellious excursions that she meets Alex, who she thinks is a rebel at first but turns out to be one of the Cured. Yet he can still experience romance, it seems. And oh my, he's actually a rebel faking his Cured status to live in the city! And as Lena is still in the grip of this terrible virus that... okay, I have to make an aside here, because I don't remember this being explained in the slightest:Now, in this dystopian world, people make this massive hullaballoo about how being in love is akin to a psychological and pathological disease that threatens the rip apart the very fabric of society. So why do the teenagers in this novel have to book way in advance at a government-sanctioned hospital a little after their eighteenth birthdays? Why not just have it scattered throughout the school year? You know, a medical caravan comes by every month to administer the procedure on whoever has had birthdays that month. If you were born during the school holidays, the caravan comes to your home instead. Bish bash bosh, you're done, get your coat.But nope, oh well, my idea will have to stay in my head.So anyway, the novel is about love... and teenage rebellion. I'm going to stay away from dystopian literature (excepting 1984, which I am still yet to read) for a while once I've finished Legend, but yes, our teenagers are most definitely Uncured and in love. Oh no, society doesn't like that! So we've got to fight this big bad society who say we can't be together and who wants to match us up to people we aren't interested in. It's teenage rebellion fantasising at its best. Society here might as well have been portrayed as strict parents who only want you marrying for money or someone from their approved list, and anybody else can meet the nasty end of Pop's weapon collection.Honestly, I don't understand this obsession about young love. Maybe because I'm a 20 year old girl who's not into guys or gals at all, and happily look forward to my twilight years, in which I surround myself with cats and books.I appreciate that Oliver has written a character who is ingratiated into this kind of society, and plays by the rules to avoid shaming her new family. The only thing is, to begin with Lena comes across as really quite stilted and boring. I just could not pick up a personality for this girl, only the aforementioned 'good girl who always thinks of others and always plays by the rules' until the second and third act.The dystopian society was well created too. I really liked some of the elements, such as government-run websites, all households having copies of certain government-sanctioned books, the neighbourhood watch patrolling the town in the evenings, and boys and girls being segregated into different schools to keep themselves 'pure' before being Cured. I may have complained about Lena being a bit boring to begin with, but... she's actually quite a refreshing change to most YA heroines in dystopian novels. Lena knows the rules of her society and the dire consequences there can be if you break these rules. She's not some silent rebel trying to build an army to take back her country from some oppressive big bad. A bit later in the book, after Lena discovers that she's been hanging around with an Uncured, she actually does the smart job of refusing to associate with him for the next few months. Most other heroines would say it was so wrong but felt so right, but not Lena. This is a brilliantly logical form of that doesn't seem to crop up too often amongst YA heroines.Alex isn't some mysterious boy who wants to bring Lena into his world either, he just finds her really interesting and feels genuinely guilty to have tricked her. But that's a bit late now, considering that Lena has chosen her matched husband and passed all her exams. He takes her out into the Wilds one day and she vows to leave with him shortly after discovering a very important secret.I also really loved how dark the society was portrayed as being. I mean, people are dragged away for getting a teensy bit close to someone of the opposite sex before they're Cured. (A parallel to that news story in Dubai where a British girl was arrested for kissing a guy she wasn't married/related to, maybe?) The operation to get rid of the love 'disease' is described as vaguely as possible and served to make it sound just that bit scarier. And I did balk slightly when I read the scene where they detail what really happened to Lena's mother as she fought against the Cure. Lena herself gets a taste of government justice in the thrilling last part of the book, during which Regulators beat her up and drag her back home, then put her under house arrest until she escapes with Alex. I really loved that – some dystopian books I've read never really explored the true horror of the societies their characters were living in, and Delirium got it all right. Lena was a frightened little mouse who just doesn't know any better and wants to play by the rules. Alex was great too, but Hana felt a little bit underplayed, considering that after one pivotal scene in the book, she isn't seen again for ages afterwards. I also have some issues with Lena's family, who were rather underdeveloped as Lena spent most of her time away from home. It would be nice to have had hints about her mother throughout the story rather than “okay auntie, I'll do the washing up and put my younger cousins to bed, but now I'm going out, bye!” vibe I got from Lena.Problems with the characters aside, this was a great novel. It starts off slow and definitely has some stuttering moments, but these facets are easily forgivable when the more climactic scenes work so well. The world is constructed well, the characters act the way real people would act in a dystopian setting, and I'm now really excited to read its sequel, Pandemonium. 4/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/book-review-delirium-by-lauren-oliver/)