Monday, December 27, 2010

Review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver; Harper, 2011. 

Sixty-four years ago, the United States President and his consortium proclaimed "amor deliria nervosa" to be the dealiest of all deadly things.  They declaired love a disease. Fifty years ago, the government closed the U.S. borders, and forbade physical contact of uncureds of the opposite sex.  The military began guarding the borders; every sanctioned and approved community must be inside a border.  Travel between communities would only given with written consent of the government at least six months in advance.  Phone conversations are monitored and people are constantly being watched.   Many things, including oil, are rationed.

Forty-three years ago, scientists perfected a love cure, to which every teenager must submit on or shortly after their eighteenth birthday. Sympathizers for Uncureds are either executed or locked in The Crypts, a combination of a prison and mental institution, to serve a life sentence.  People who live in the unregulated land between recognized cities and towns, called "The Wilds", are known as Invalids because they have not been cured.
On September 3, Lena will turn eighteen years old and cannot wait for her cure.  She hopes that the cure will help her to overcome the extreme sadness she feels for her mother, who committed suicide when Lena was six years old.  However, she is not looking forward to Evaluation Day, where a panel of four or five people will assess her and assign a score which determines her future job or college and future mate.  Lena's Aunt Carol tells Lena that she probably won't be friends with her best friend, Hana, after they undergo the cure because they will probably not remember each other and will not have any more emotional ties. 

Everything changes when Lena meets a boy named Alex, who serves as a facility guard.  At first, they are friends, but eventually, the relationship blossoms into something much more.  Ulitmately, Lena and Alex plot to escape to The Wilds, but are caught, and Lena is imprisoned in her aunt and uncle's house, awaiting her cure, which has been moved up and will happen almost immediately.

What a great dystopian read this book was!  It reminded me of a modern Shakespeare story, where love between two young people is forbidden and they must meet secretly.  The cure hanging over Lena's head is like a death sentence in the distance.  The characters are sketched out brilliantly; the Cureds are portrayed as emotionless zombies, unable to even feel love for their own children and family members.  Lena and Hana are fun-loving and full of life.  To know that these traits will soon be extinguished by The Cure adds an amount of doom and gloom to the story.  The scene which features a visit to The Crypts reminds me of the horrifying descriptions of the old mental wards from the early 1900s.  Lena waiting for Alex to come to her rescue near the end of the book seems eerily similar to the rescue of Queen Guinivere by Lancelot in "Camelot".  She is the damsel in distress!

Fictional quotes from The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, 12th edition, (also called The Book of Shhh), and other "government publications" begin every chapter.  I feel like the book is a real work of art from beginning to end.  It is due to be published on February 1, 2011.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for high school and public libraries!