Sara Latta's Reviews > Delirium

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
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Jan 30, 11

Read from January 11 to 22, 2011

“’We must be constantly on guard against the Disease; the health of our nation, our people, our families, and our minds depends on constant vigilance.’—‘Basic Health Measures,’ The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, 12th edition.”

The deadly disease at the center of “Delirium” (Harper Teen, due out February 1, 2011), Lauren Oliver’s dystopian novel, is “amor delia nervosa.” That is to say, love, an illness characterized by impaired reasoning, insomnia, and loss of appetite. In the most severe cases, love lost or never found has been known to drive people to madness or even suicide. “Romeo and Juliet” is a cautionary tale in this world.

Fortunately for Lena Holloway, she is only 95 days away from her 18th birthday, when she will be old enough to receive The Cure—a government-mandated procedure that will protect her from the disease. She’ll be able to lead a safe, predictable, and happy life with an appropriate boy selected for her. And it won’t come soon enough for Lena: “I don’t like to think that I’m still walking around with the disease running through my blood,” she says. “Sometimes I swear I can feel it, writing in my veins like something spoiled, like sour milk.” Most emphatically, she doesn’t want to end up like her mother, for whom The Cure didn’t “take.”

And then, with a literal cattle stampede, a boy appears in Lena’s life. Despite her misgivings, Lena, always the good girl (unlike her best friend and running buddy Hana), can’t stop thinking about Alex, the boy with “hair like leaves in autumn just as they’re turning.” And with good reason: in addition having great hair, Alex is kind, generous, and funny. As their romance develops, Lena begins to question everything she has learned about love, family ties, and the beneficence of the government. The ending is both heart-breaking and optimistic. Oliver’s smart, sophisticated writing brings to life the characters and setting of this futuristic Portland, Maine, and you’ll be left wanting more. Fortunately, “Delirium” is the first of a trilogy, although there is no news about the expected publication dates of the next two books.

Oliver is the author is the critically acclaimed “Before I Fall” (Harper Teen, 2010), a novel that asks, “What if you could life the last day of your life again, not just once, but seven times? Would you do things differently?”

This reviewer received an electronic ARC of Delirium from netgalley.com. The review originally appeared in the News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois), 1/30/10.

Sara Latta, Champaign, is the author of eleven books for children. She has an M.F.A. in creative writing, and currently working on a novel for teen readers and a work of graphic nonfiction. She has three books on forensic science coming out in 2011.
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