Delirium by Lauren Oliver


Goodreads: Delirium
Series: Delirium #1

Summary:  Love is a disease, and so everyone must undergo an operation to rid themselves of it—and from the effects of most other emotions.  Lena is looking forward to her surgery, until she meets Alex, a young man who always seems to be where she is and who understands better than anyone what happiness is.  Now, as she begins to succumb to disease herself, she must decide what she will risk to have it.

Review: Delirium is a very smooth read, well-constructed and well-cast.  Exactly why love is a disease remains rather vague, despite the excerpts from official government texts and the explanations of the five stages of love that eventually end in death. Oliver’s cleverness shows in that some of the first stages of infatuation or love can be similar to sickness—anxiousness, lack of appetite, inability to concentrate, etc.   So when Lena begins to fall in love, it seems to her that the government is right, and she will inevitability die of it.  But why society decided forgoing love was a brilliant idea is unclear.  Sure, eradicating fear or depression could sound nice, and these emotions are disposed of along with love in this society…but why is love the focus?

If the reader can get past this point (or, more precisely, try to ignore the entire premise of the novel), it is rather good.  The writing is wonderful.  The characters, unlike in Before I Fall, are likeable.  There is romance—and some of the scenes are really very sweet.  There is also a mystery, which adds a bit of a political edge to the story that one can only hope will be developed in the following books.

The most beauty comes from the interspersion of completely normal moments.  Here Lena is in the middle of a dystopian society, where media is censored, houses are searched, curfews are enforced, the residents are fenced in, and no one is allowed to feel too much—and she is doing things like running, tanning at the beach, or sneaking sodas from her uncle’s shop to share with her friends.  This is a rare dystopian that seems so close to our own society.

The ultimate effect is that Delirium is a somewhat pleasant read, which is not necessarily what one would expect from a dystopian novel.  There is no huge conflict, no urgency, no sense that everything is horrible and will never, ever be fixed.  It reads very much like a romance and an adventure.  What will Alex and Lena do next?  Will they be able to come together in the end?

Published: 2011


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Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Goodreads: Insurgent
Series: Divergent #2


Summary:  Since the Erudite took over Dauntless and invaded Abnegation, Tris and Four are on the run to Amity to rest and regroup with their allies.  Neither was ranked in Dauntless’ hierarchy, but as the city becomes more and more dangerous, both find themselves at the center of preparations for the upcoming war.

Review: Insurgent is an exciting follow-up to Divergent, beginning right where the last book stopped and dropping readers right into the middle of the war with Erudite.  The book has a  lot of action, just on a much grander scale than Divergent as Tris and Four have left the Dauntless compound in order to explore the other faction headquarters and the rest of the city.  The portrayal of the different factions is one of the novel’s strengths, as Roth gives each one unique customs and a distinct personality, ranging from the adamantly peaceful Amity to the straightforward Candor.  In general, however, Roth makes sure to make clear that no faction and no individual is as one-dimensional as most of the citizens believe.

Tris and Four do get some very nice romantic moments in Insurgent, though unfortunately they spend a large portion of the book arguing.  I read through a few hundred pages before I realized the book was actually putting me into a bad mood because everyone was yelling so much.  Precisely why they are arguing is a little unclear.  Maybe it is just stress from all the danger and battle preparations.  Perhaps Roth thought she needed to “spice up” their relationship.  Luckily, they get over their differences eventually, and Tris gets over all the issues that were holding her back for most of the book, and the ending gets much more exciting than the beginning.

Roth also continues to insert philosophical statements in surprising places.  Tris comes to see that other people view the world in shades of grey, while she and Four tend to look at it as black and white.  In the end, she stands up for absolute morality, arguing that no matter how she looks at it, controlling people’s minds has to be wrong.  It’s hard to argue with that!

Insurgent is a very strong second book, and although the ending is expected rather than surprising, Roth has set up herself up well to deliver a thrilling finale where everything changes.

Published: May 1, 2012

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Goodreads: Wither
Series: The Chemical Garden #1

Goodreads Summary: By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out? Together with one of Linden’s servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

Review:  The story of Wither is built around an intriguing, disturbing premise.  In the future, people die, without fail, in their early twenties, and humanity is left in a desperate race to find a cure before the entire population disappears.  Readers will be drawn in from the first pages, wondering how the scenario will play out.

Most of the story, however, is not focused on this search for a miracle.  Instead, it closely follows protagonist Rhine as she is sucked into the alien world of the wealthy, who are eager to spend fortunes on stunning home illusions and parties in an attempt to enjoy their lives while they last.  DeStefano’s depiction of the luxurious world is imaginative and captivating, as tempting to readers as it is to Rhine.  She must continuously struggle against the life that has been forced upon her, always remember that beyond the endless gardens and orange grove and course for miniature gulf, that she once had a different home, one with family if without wealth.

She begins to find, however, that it may be possible to build a different sort of family.  One with her sister wives and the servants, if not with the House Governor, her husband, whom she is determined to hate.  The relationships that develop between the girls are complex, sometimes strained but sometimes moving.  The fact that they are in a polygamous relationship can occasionally escape the reader’s memory because they spend so much time together trying to be friends.  This is doubtless the result of a concerted effort by DeStefano to soften an incredibly creepy plot aspect.  Her other main endeavor to make the polygamy palatable is evident in Rhine’s consistent refusal to actually have intercourse with her husband.  Nonetheless, their strange sister wife relationship to each other and to their husband is disturbing.

It may honestly be the most disturbing facet of the book.  In many ways, DeStefano fails to deliver on her dystopian/post apocalyptic ideas, and her world ends up inconsistent.  For instance, readers may wonder why, if women are in such high demand, they are frequently murdered.  Or why women must be kidnapped to be brides. Or why only the upper classes are eager to reproduce.  Or why no one bothers with education anymore if they really want to find a cure.  Or even what purpose it serves to the plot for North America to be the only continent left in existence.  (Perhaps this is supposed to be an easy solution to the question of how everyone in the world, including very poor countries, would have all turned to genetic engineering so quickly?)  Answers are not forthcoming, and the lack of explanations makes Wither less believable and therefore less powerful.

The level of potential fear is also diminished by the fact that there is absolutely no hint as to what evil deeds Rhine’s father-in-law is supposedly up to in the basement.  He is doing something—he is murderous and controlling and has corpses he of people he claims had been cremated—but without an idea of what his experiments are (besides the fact that they must evil), readers cannot be overly concerned about them.  One can only imagine that the whole mystery will be cleared up later in the series, but by the ending of the Wither, it seems though an interesting plot turn will have to occur for that reveal even to happen.

Wither is unique and rather fascinating.  It is filled with a cast of strong and unforgettable characters.  Its most obvious characteristic, however, is its failure to live up to its own potential.  The plotline, concept, and relationships are enough to lead readers to the sequel Fever—after all, who wants to leave a story without discovering whether the human race survives?—but there are so many ways by which readers could have been made even more eager to find out what happens.

Published: 2011

*Posted for the Catch Wither Fever event hosted by The Overstuffed Bookcase and The Daily Bookmark.