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 love Young Adult fiction. I think out of all the genres out there it is the least pretentious and attention-seeking. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a lot of YA becomes movies and therefore gets a lot of attention, but what I mean is that the prose isn’t showy. There are no deep extended metaphors, complicated rhythmic patterns, or anything like that. Just solid, simple story-telling. I’m not saying the plots are predictable or anything like that otherwise why would I be singing YA’s praises? I mean that YA is written for the enjoyment of the reader. That is its purpose.
But then I read Requiem.
My first introduction to Lauren Oliver was Before I Fall, a brilliant book about the last day in a teenage girl’s life. Only she has to live it seven different ways before the final page. It is the most ambitious YA I have ever read. Not only is it from the POV of a “popular” kid, but Oliver risks using a lot of the same material and gets away with it. I fell in love with Oliver’s storytelling there and then. So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Delirium, which I bought at the same time as Before I Fall.
Delirium was fantastic. From the premise to the final moments of Lena’s dramatic escape, I was hooked. I wanted to know what happened next like nobody’s business. But Pandemonium was a let down. And I hate being let down by authors who have entranced me in their previous novels (Rowling, Clare, Gaiman, Mead, you have never done this to me. Please don’t ever ever start. I love you!). It feels like a personal attack; a stab to the back or a bullet to the heart. So, even though I wasn’t holding out much hope for Requiem, I read it anyway.
One, because I needed to know what ended up happening to the characters.
Two, because I paid good money for these books and I wasn’t going to let perfectly good money go to waste.
But trust me, these books are now going to St Vinnie’s.
You know that thing that happens when you absolutely hate someone or something? Everything they do becomes intolerable. And that was what Requiem was for me. Every time I opened the book I would be judging every word that filtered through my brain. Then I would shake my head and tell myself that I was being unfair and to just “let the story happen”. And that would work for a few pages, and then something would happen that would make me lose my faith in the book all over again. I have three examples for you.
Example 1: Just have a look at that picture. Really look at it. Now all of you should be cringing.
Readers? You should expect more from published authors.
Writers? That’s the kind of mistake you would pick up in your first edit of your manuscript. And there’s no way you would let that go through to your editor.
Editors? How embarrassed would you be if a mistake like that crept through on your watch. Whether you’re the editor or the final proofreader, that shit just should have been picked up. And do you know what this mistake says to me? That Oliver stopped caring about telling a good story. She just wanted the story out of her head so she could forget about it and move onto the next project. And it shows that the editor was too lazy or too scared to make any editorial comment whatsoever. So because of that we readers get stuck with half-assed prose that no one gave a fuck about.
Example 2: In the very last scenes of Requiem, Alex and Lena are reunited. While the Invalids are in the middle of tearing down the borders surrounding “Zombieland”, they find each other. Now to set the scene: there is every single kind of violence you can imagine. Lena has to look after her younger cousin. Julian is within eyeshot. So with all of this in mind, let’s take a look at how Oliver handled the reunion of our two main characters:
“Is it true?” I ask him.
“Is what true?” His eyes are the colour of honey. These are the eyes I remember from my dreams.
“That you still love me,” I say, breathless. “I need to know.”
Alex nods. He reaches out and touches my face – barely skimming my cheekbone and brushing away a bit of my hair.
“But…I’ve changed,” I say.
“And you’ve changed.”
“That’s true too,” he says quietly. I look at the scar on his face, stretching from his left eye to his jawline, and something hitches in my chest.
“So what now? I ask him. The light is too bright; the day feels as though it’s merging into a dream.
“Do you love me?” Alex asks. And I could cry; I could press my face into his chest and breathe in, and pretend that nothing has changed, that everything will be perfect and whole and healed again.
But I can’t. I know I can’t.
“I never stopped.”
This is in the middle of a war zone. Yes, this is exactly what we want to happen and of course it would happen right at the end of the book. And of course Alex finds her again. This is a novel full of people showing up in the most contrived situations imaginable simply because they are needed in that particular scene. There is no finesse to how Oliver brings her characters in. Well, not in this book. If they are needed, they just show up with a few sentences, sometimes not even that, of explanation. And then don’t even get me started on this dialogue. How could any of this have taken place? Seriously? Bullets and debris flying around. People injured and screaming. And Julian, not metres away, tearing down the wall. All he would have had to do is look up and see the woman he left his comfortable life for confessing her love for another man.
If Alex and Lena were to be reunited in a war zone, there would have been a quick, passionate kiss and explanations later. Because that’s all that there would have been time for. And they wouldn’t have been able to hear each other anyway!
Example 3: The book just ends. There’s some wishy washy conclusion about tearing down walls after Lena starts pulling down the concrete border along with other members of the resistance and then nothing. I have no problems with open endings. They’re frustrating but sometimes that’s just how a story has to end. Like in Ugly Betty. The idea was for Betty to become her own person. If we had been explicitly told that she ended up with Daniel it would have detracted from her character arc. So if the ending to Requiem had been handled properly, it could have been a beautiful ending: not knowing what would happen to the world now that the Invalids had torn through the barrier. But Oliver was lazy. There are so many things that were never tied up:
- What happened to Hana? I get that she needed to leave, but she was such a massive role in Lena’s Portland life that she deserved a bigger end than just walking away.
- Did Oliver just forget that Julian had a life-threatening tumour? It was a massive thing in Pandemonium. It was a plot point. But in Requiem it’s not even mentioned. And I’m pretty sure all of the stress would have given him a few seizures or something. Because he says, while locked up with Lena, that he gets seizures sometimes. An entire book is a long time to go without having a seizure. And in high-stress situations it just feels as though Oliver forgot. Or that Julian having a seizure wouldn’t have fit into her sloppy plot.
- Speaking of Julian: what happens for him? Or for Coral? The woman Julian crossed the border for is still in love with her ex and her ex still loves her. He was such a gentle character that I don’t want him to be unhappy. He gave up so much to be with Lena, he deserves to have a happy ending. And as for Coral…well, maybe she could end up with Julian. I hope so. That way both parties can be happy.
- What ever happened to Lena’s family? We know they left Grace behind, but why? And why don’t we ever find out?
- How did the resistance start? Who started it? How do the homesteads communicate?
- We never see people from other countries. Surely America just closing its borders ruffled a few feathers. America is a “super power” for God’s sake. We never find out how an entire country is allowed to just close itself off to the world.
- What actually happens during the procedure? Is something cut out of the brain or is something just stoppered up, like a wine bottle? This should have been explained somewhere in the series.
This ending is not open-ended. This is the end to a book that the author couldn’t be bothered writing anymore. There is nothing satisfying in the end of this novel at all. It is rushed and implausible and, quite frankly, feels like the first draft. And these are just the specific problems. Throughout the novel I noticed severe character deficiencies. Not once did I feel like I was learning anything about the characters. When Coral and Lena are talking and Coral says “I can see why he [Alex] loved you” I wanted to ask her to explain it to the rest of us. Because to me, in this book and in Pandemonium, I felt that Lena was just a pair of eyes. No real emotion or inner conflict or personality. Just a pair of eyes to see with and a mouth to explain everything else. Everyone after Delirium was a two-dimensional character. We get nothing. All of the characters are just blips on the story radar; various chess pieces to be moved around a giant board. There is no emotion and they do exactly as commanded. I didn’t feel the connection between Lena and any of the characters. The only character that I felt had been done justice was Hana. And that was because she was supposed to be an emotionally distant almost-cyborg with her ability to feel removed. I don’t want to go on.
I feel so let down by Lauren Oliver. She was brilliant. Key word: was. Before I Fall and Delirium are amazing novels and I whole-heartedly recommend them. But as for the other books in the Delirium trilogy: don’t even bother. I haven’t had my heart broken like this by a novel since, well, ever. Even when I was a Twihard (ah, the ignorance of youth) I didn’t feel let down by the end of Breaking Dawn. Even though it was a total cop-out and denied the reader an amazing vampire on werewolf on vampire battle.
So I give Requiem:
This series had so much potential. But it was betrayed by laziness on both the author’s and the editor’s part. Seriously, I am surrounded by talented writers almost every day and this is the kind of book that gets published. This, Fifty Shades, Twilight, and so many other novels are the reasons that I weep for humanity and the future of literature.
Yeah, I said it. I compared this novel to Twilight. Now you can understand my disappointment.
On a happier note, I am now halfway through my fourteen-step program. You can read about my journey from the very beginning here. And I am proud to say that I have not bought any new books. I am waiting until I have finished this program. Or until I’m up to Every Breath. Because I feel like I should read the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series before I launch into anything inspired by his work. Movies and TV shows are one thing, but books are a serious business.
- #5 “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver (infernalimagination.wordpress.com)
- Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver (bftreviews.wordpress.com)
- The Best and Worst of Series Enders (pandaheartsbooks.wordpress.com)
- TTT- Top Ten Best/Worst Endings of a Series (bookrockbetty.com)
- #6 “Pandemonium” by Lauren Oliver (infernalimagination.wordpress.com)