1. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
2. Holiday in Cambodia – Laura Jean McKay
3. Only Human – Gareth Roberts
4. Beautiful Chaos – Gary Russell
5. The Silent Stars – Dan Abnett
6. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
7. Every Breath – Ellie Marney
8. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
9. Delirium – Lauren Oliver
10. Pandemonium – Lauren Oliver
11. Requiem – Lauren Oliver
12. Venom – Fiona Paul
13. Belladonna – Fiona Paul
14. A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
I have to take a book with me everywhere I go. Every handbag I buy has to be big enough to be able to hold the biggest book in my library (anything from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon). If, at any point, I have not chucked a book in my bag, I always seem to be stuck in some situation where a book was needed. So when I packed for my holiday to Phuket I had to bring a book with me. No, scratch that. Three books with me. You know, for the plane rides, trying to get to sleep, and on days where the weather doesn’t want to play fair and gives you torrential rain instead of beachy sunshine. Like today. So I decided to finally tackle the Delirium trilogy.
I found Delirium on GoodReads while I was playing around and trying to impress cyberspace with the number of books I’ve read. The storyline sounded incredible, so I figured I should read the reviews. And as I write this, I have two bleating at me from my memory.
The first one was a woman griping about grammar. She has a legitimate complaint. Lauren Oliver uses the word “literally” in one of the metaphors she uses to describe her male lead, Alex. And this is a huge no-no. No one’s eyes can “literally” dance with fire. They’d be dead. But unlike my GoodReads associate, I managed to pick up and move on.
The second review berated Oliver’s choice of narrator, describing her as weak. I have to wholeheartedly disagree. In a world where love is seen as a disease and the inhabitants have been brainwashed to believe that “Ex rememdium salus” (From the cure, salvation), I think Lena is a perfect narrator. She has been brought up thinking that the cure for “amor deliria nervosa” is the only way to lead a happy life. And after her mother committed suicide rather than be subjected to her fourth treatment for the disease, Lena looks forward to having that pain of her past taken away. Which is perfectly understandable I think. And because she has such faith in the cure, you see her friendship with her rebellious friend Hana suffer and a friendship with her new “cured” friend Alex bloom before it’s revealed that [SPOILER] Alex is actually a rebel and the triangular scar on his neck isn’t from the procedure for the cure, but is actually just made from a knife so he can move between the rebel camps beyond the fence and Lena’s world. You see Lena struggle with this revelation and slowly come around to being able to be with Alex, the catalyst for this is an heroic act on Alex’s part. This change in Lena also allows a way for Lena to see her world for what it truly is and she changes and changes until she, too, becomes a “sympathiser”. And through all this she knows she’s contracted “deliria”. But she doesn’t care. It’s all so delicious.
As I read Oliver’s story with the second review honking at me the whole time, I wondered whether Hana would have been a more acceptable narrator. A girl that has everything this loveless world could possibly offer and yet she still seeks the Wilds. Just before their aborted procedure date in the beginning of the novel you get a glimpse into Hana’s character when she says
“You can’t really be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes. You know that, right?”
And I thought that we were being told that Hana had been a sympathiser all along and that was when I was thinking “can we get inside her head? Please?”. But as Lena gets bolder, Hana gets more timid and we see that Hana is just acting out to feel like she’s a little bit in control. Just like every single rich kid in every single other storyline where the rich kid does something that diverges from their parents’ wishes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hana, she’s more than just a stock character, but Lena was definitely the right choice for narrator. I won’t question Oliver again.
What I love most about the premise of this series is the legitimacy it is gives to teenage love stories. Everyone goes in for the procedure at eighteen. So before that, if teenagers are struck down with “deliria”, the relationships are more intense. Because of that, when they tell stories about people jumping off buildings rather than being “cured”; or about people running away to the Wilds (the rebel camps), knowing they most likely will be shot in the attempt; or simply telling each other in the darkest nights that they will be together forever; these tidbits are easier to swalloe. It’s the one folly of YA fiction: teenage love is intense but rarely lasts forever and the authors always insist on eternal love. The only other time I have seen YA love done in such a convincing way is in Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter universe. Clary’s mother actually explains to Clary/the reader in, I’m pretty sure, City of Glass that because Shadowhunters tend to die young, they get married young. And boom! There’s an explanation that I can live with. So because Lena is scheduled for her procedure, we see Lena and Alex’s relationship become more and more intense the closer Lena comes to her procedure date. And you can take into stride everything that happens between the two of them because of it.
Another tiny, genius detail in Oliver’s speculated future is that, at some point, science and religion combine to create a super religion. So all of the science currently being ignored by the fanatic religious horde becomes ingrained into their belief system. (Sorry if I offended anyone but I’m Catholic and I believe in evolution. It’s irrefutable). And it’s just a little metaphor for the cure that sneaks in: the majority of the people in Oliver’s world have such blind faith in the cure that it just starts to have religious overtones. And the fact that Oliver combines science and religion into an overarching belief system is representative of the state of the world, I think. Whether you take it as blind faith in the government or science or religion or something else entirely is up to you. But I think Oliver has very cleverly snuck in her commentary about society so that we’re not even aware she’s done it. So multiple kudos, Lauren Oliver.
So when push comes to shove and I add everything together, I give Delirium
I had to take a star off for grammar. Not only should Oliver know better but what the hell was her editor thinking?
But if any of you are really interested in Hana’s character, or just like to know as much about a world as you possibly can, Oliver wrote an eBook with Hana as the narrator. I think it sits in between Delirium and Pandemonium. You can find it here. If you love Lauren Oliver like I do, or you just need to know everything about a world that you’ve read about, you should buy this eBook. Yes, I am recommending an eBook. So you probably should pay attention. And at less than $3, it’s not much of a sacrifice to make to get to know a secondary character.