My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The writing: Dear god, the writing in this. It gives me hope that people will buy and read things that have great imagery, and which spend time describing the environment rather than making every single moment slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am nonstop action. I loved wallowing in Oliver's descriptions; I felt very much like I was there with Lena as she went through her story. Particularly wonderful, I thought, were the ways in which the settings contrasted--the Wilds vs. Portland, the houses in Deering Highlands vs. the homes in the rest of Portland. Oliver has a way of writing description that puts you right in the middle of the action, and for someone who tends to otherwise imagine characters kind of moving about in blank white space, that level of attention to detail was very much appreciated. There aren't senses missing in this--Oliver gets in to how things smell, feel, taste in addition to just how they look.
The plot: DELIRIUM starts out slowly. VERY slowly. Had I not been reading it mostly so that I could get to my ARC copy of PANDEMONIUM, I might have put it down. That said, there are plenty of twists and turns on this path (even if some are a bit predictable:
The book does fall in to the ongoing problem of teen trilogies, however, which is that it feels like there was little self-contained plot in this book alone. Like many others (Ally Condie's Matched for instance, comes to mind), the book ends on a cliffhanger, and it feels very much like 1/3 of a larger work, rather than a first book in a set of three. If there's anything contributing to my dropping a star on this book, it's that.
The characters: Lena is very relatable. One of my favorite tiny details about her was her friendship with Hana (Hana got her own novella, which I don't have time to read before PANDEMONIUM releases, but which looks interesting), which plays as a very normal teenage girl relationship. I especially loved that she and Hana had the "Hallelujah Halena!" cheer for each other. It's exactly the kind of thing I remember creating in junior high school, and details like that made Lena a very real, easily identified-with character.
And Alex--I loved his comfort with who he was and his ability to move in and out of Portland society. He had just enough "cool" to make him believable in all the things he's been able to accomplish, but also had a deep caring for Lena which makes him easily sympathized with.
I loved the secondary characters, also. Grace is a wonderful foil for Lena, and lets us see a lot about who Lena is as an "infected" person. So far in PANDEMONIUM, great secondaries seem to be Oliver's specialty, so I'm looking forward to getting to know them more.
My one very minor beef: Is it ever mentioned in the beginning of this book that "Portland" is Portland, ME? I spent a long time trying to figure out if perhaps the sea level had risen and that was why there was shoreline in Portland, OR, and was a little jolted to find that the book was set on the opposite side of the country halfway through the book.
Overall: This is one of the more interesting dystopian ideas I've read in a while. When I first heard the premise, I thought it sounded silly--love as a disease? But as I read and understood it not as only romantic love, but all feeling and strong emotion, I found myself strangely agreeing with many of the society's premises--that love and strong emotion causes as much destruction as it prevents, and able to see exactly how such a society might come into being. For me, that's a critical piece--can I buy in to the dystopian world? DELIRIUM delivered on that front, and that made it an enjoyable read for me. On to book number 2--and I'll be giving away my ARC when I'm done!
4 stars even on this one. One star loss for the slow start and the ever-present YA trilogy "no full plot in this book" problem.
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Have you read Delirium? What did you think? Link your review if you have one!