Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.
I really looked forward to this book. After Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, got rave reviews, I did a bit of searching and discovered she just released a dystopic novel called Delirium, where love is a disease that the state must cure. I quickly picked it up and tore through it quickly.
Lena Holoway lives in the isolated city of Portland, Maine (thanks to a helpful reminder from Alyssa of Redhead Heroines), and cannot wait to receive The Cure on her 18th birthday. She has never said anything to an uncured boy outside of her nose-picking cousin, and she lives in perpetual fear of catching the Deliria, the disease that makes you lose your senses and throw away all reason. Her mother had the disease, and The Cure never really took care of it–she killed herself; her father seemed to be a sympathizer (against the totalitarian government and against The Cure), and Lena has never been able to escape the stigma of either shameful event.
Just as she is about to graduate, readying herself for her evaluation (which will determine her future education and marital prospects), Lena begins to see ripples of dissent all around her. Her best friend seems seditious, and a boy named Alex who is supposed to be Cured (and therefore nearly emotionless) smiles and laughs at her, flirts with her even. When Raids begin, viciously and violently attempting to root out any Uncured people, Lena finds herself accidentally caught in the middle of it, nearly killed in the process if not for Alex. Finally, she realizes that she has caught the Deliria, she has become that which she most feared–and yet it isn’t as bad as she thinks. She must make the choice to take the Cure or run.
Oliver’s narrative style is really excellent. She effectively wields a bit of stream-of-consciousness to really get into Lena’s head, to capture the whirling emotions going through this girl as she must make life-altering decisions while finding out who she is. This sense of emotion is even more important as it makes the reader really consider what the book might be like if that was all taken away.
Delirium seems like a cross between Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and the film Equilibrium, where peace is maintained by drug-induced suppression of emotions. While Little Brother (an excellent book) is about the establishment of a totalitarian government, this could be 100 years after that fact, after the new regime has taken root and wiped out the bulk of the resistance. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to more from Lauren Oliver.