Kat Kennedy's Reviews > Delirium

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
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Dec 04, 2013

it was ok
bookshelves: kat-s-book-reviews, oppressive-dystopian-regime, the-great-shelf-of-meh, to-ya-or-not-to-ya
Read from April 28 to May 25, 2012

I have said this before and I’ll say it again. I have no prob­lem with an implau­si­ble story vehi­cle. As long as the ride is good and it relates a moral or philo­soph­i­cal value.

But where the line is drawn is when the world isn’t con­sis­tent and in the con­fines of that world, things don’t make sense.

That’s my limit. That’s when I start get­ting frus­trated and annoyed. And it’s not because an author tried some­thing new, okay? Lau­ren Oliver is AMAZING. She is a great author who is eru­dite and ver­bose and inter­est­ing to lis­ten to. I’ve seen her speak live and frankly to an audi­ence and her abil­ity to relate to them and express her­self is fantastic.

But this novel still didn’t work for me. Delir­ium, unfor­tu­nately, failed for me. Which is sad­den­ing, because Lau­ren Oliver is a good author and I know, with Delir­ium, she was reach­ing out and try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. I just wish it had been more successful.

Now, here’s where it all bug­gered up:

1. Incon­sis­tent world building.

The main pro­tag­o­nist says the word “love” twice. Once in con­ver­sa­tion and the sec­ond time men­tally. Love is a con­cept that’s stig­ma­tized to such an extreme degree that even the whis­pered word “sym­pa­thizer” is ver­boten. Yet the main pro­tag­o­nist SAYS it to her aunt – that she LOVES chil­dren. It just doesn’t make sense. And she’s wan­der­ing around with Alex and mak­ing out with him in pub­lic like the con­se­quence for that is a slap on the wrist. Look, she lives in a highly auto­cratic world where even a hint of the dis­ease will land you in prison – and she makes out with her boyfriend in the mid­dle of pub­lic places.

2. Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

I loved the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Lena. I thought it was accu­rate and real­is­tic. It’s the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Alex that left me hol­low and empty. He felt like a place-holder. Sim­ply a text­book demon­stra­tion of today’s YA expec­ta­tions of a love inter­est. Devoted, stalk­er­ish, sad back story. Oliver’s love inter­est in Before I Fall was so much more dynamic even though he com­prised a rel­a­tively small part in the story. Alex felt like a def­i­n­i­tion of desir­able love inter­est instead of actu­ally being a per­son Lena fell in love with.

3. Writ­ing.

I never thought I’d say this because, in my mind, Oliver is – and always will be – a fan­tas­tic writer. But there were aspects of the writ­ing in this book that were obvi­ous, cliche and sim­plis­tic. For exam­ple, Lena is emo­tion­ally stunted but it’s an obvi­ous par­al­lel. When­ever she feels intense emo­tion she blames it on the air con­di­tion­ing or weather etc. She is the result of a child­hood of emo­tional detach­ment – but not really – and this is where it gets per­sonal for me.

Because, if you don’t reli­giously read my reviews, then you wouldn’t know that my son was almost diag­nosed with Attach­ment Dis­or­der. Because when my first son was born, I was one of those weird reli­gious peo­ple that ascribed to books like Baby Wise, etc. For the first six months of his life, he barely looked at me in the eye. Attach­ment dis­or­der babies are those that, from their infancy, do not expe­ri­ence con­sis­tent, lov­ing care. They are chil­dren that learn, early on, that they are not truly loved and this results in a wide swath of behav­ioral and emo­tional problems.

Lena is the result of a child­hood that had a mother who loves her and responded accord­ingly to her needs, but other chil­dren in the soci­ety didn’t receive this – some­thing that I felt was a huge cope-out. What about the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of a per­son who wasn’t loved? Who was a prod­uct of the sys­tem? I feel like this wasn’t exam­ined enough – wasn’t inspected enough. Like it was han­dled by some­one who just assumed that chil­dren would still reflect some mod­icum of nor­mal­ity after being raised in a world where they aren’t being lov­ingly raised by peo­ple prop­erly attached to them. And the assump­tion that you can have attach­ment with­out love – it’s mind bog­gling because I kind of feel like she was out of her depth on this one.

It’s not Oliver’s fault. But what I wanted from this is a deeper under­stand­ing of soci­ety from the point of view of some­one will­ing to delve into a harder, grit­tier, more real­is­tic story. Some­one will­ing to ask the tough ques­tions and write the tough char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. Instead the novel glosses over a lot of those things and thus felt cheap and shallow.

This review can also be found on our blog, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
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Reading Progress

02/15 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-42)




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Tatiana Why, Kat, why?


Kat Kennedy I liked Before I Fall but I hadn't seen your review for this one. Will go check it out now.


Tatiana I don't see you liking it. Just a friendly butt-in.


Kat Kennedy Ah, just read your review. Yeah - I think you're right.


Amelia It's okay. It's entertaining, but might annoy you a bit.


Marina I agree with Tatiana's review, but I actually didn't mind the implausibility of the plot, as much as I simply didn't care or engage much.


Sophie I actually really enjoyed the writing style of this book far more than in Before I Fall, and I think it has some redeeming qualities, despite the mediocre world building and portrayal of real love.


Jessica I was thinking about reading this one but was a little on the fence about it, is it any good?


message 34: by Zoe (new) - rated it 3 stars

Zoe I too agree with Tatiana's review. The book fails to express just about all the themes.


Pauline You might prefer Pandemonium! It is much better than Delirium.


Camille Pauline is right, Pandemonium is better. I love this review - I felt the same way about these issues. For some reason, I liked this ridiculous book, but I still don't know why...


Stephanie Oh this review saddens me! I must look away! I LOVED Delerium and Pandemonium. I have a big emotional attachment to this series!


sanny I am about a quarter through and have left this sort of abandoned for other reads...wondering if it's worth picking up still...


Stephanie The 2nd half of the book is worth the read. Keep going


Brandi I agree with Stephanie I enjoyed both the books. I haven't read before I fall yet. I thought that this book kind of shed light on the desensitizing of people but not in the usual fashion through imagery. I enjoyed the aspect of the masses following blindly so they won't get "sick".


Salina I really liked this book, but I also completely agree with your review. Especially about saying "love" part. Always bothered me.


message 26: by Pack-it-up (new)

Pack-it-up Wow Kat, I just want to say that you have completely captured my feelings and wants about many other books I've read that left me wanting as well. It's always a pleasure to read your reviews.


Noelyn Marie I agree with you entirely about Alex being underdeveloped as a character. Part of me hates to say that because I enjoyed this book so much. Looking back on the book, I definitely didn't become attached to him the way a reader should because he was a bit vacant, and, while I was definitely bummed by the ending, I was a big fan of Julian in the second book and am really torn on who I'm rooting for.


message 24: by Ashtin (new)

Ashtin I agree with noelwellin that Alex was pretty vacant but also am torn between Julian and Alex. For the rest of the day after I finished this book I was saying, " He is DEAD, HE CAN'T BE DEAD!!"


Leanne Omg...lighten up. It's a friggin book.


Stephanie Not-so-spoiler-alert...

"They cut into her brain, Alex, and she was awake." <- ................????????
Okay, now let that sink it... Yeah not that shocking. I mean I understand not being sedated at all, okay, that sucks. But that's not what was said. A lot of brain surgeries are done with the patient awake. Not that shocking.

Overall it's a good book though, that line just killed me.


Stephanie ^disregard that comment, I meant to be on the actual Delirium page. I need to get better with this phone haha.


message 20: by Kelsey (new) - added it

Kelsey Gravelle I think the whole "I love children" comment to her Aunt was a big editing mishap - somebody wasn't paying attention when they were reading it over!


message 19: by Reem (new) - rated it 5 stars

Reem yeah


Victoria Pimentel Completely agree with your review. I think this book is way overrated.


Kelsey Mouhot Not to knock your opinion, but I think the 'inconsistent world buildup' as when Lena used the word love in conversation and to herself was purposeful. As though even she doesn't realize just how much like her mother she already is.


Jesikah Sundin For me, I think the issue was she removed "passion", not love from society. If you cure love, remove love, there is nothing to temper hate, unkindness, or any of those negative emotions/actions. Love tempers those, things. And you can love something, and not be passionate about it. So, to me, it wasn't a world without love, it was a world without passion.


Waneeka Husain I am glad someone else was dissatisfied with the book. I am not the only one ! I just can't finish this book. I love Oliver! She is a huge inspiration to many young girls. But the author spends too much time describing unnecessary scenarios too much. Usually it takes me a day or two to complete a book but this is taking too long !


message 14: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna i agree with you entirely on the "1. Incon­sis­tent world building." thing!!


message 13: by Ally (new) - rated it 1 star

Ally I totally agree with the fact this book has inconsistent world building, really bugged the crap outta me. But the thing that frustrated me the most was the fact that it is so mind numbingly boring. It just chases itself in circles constantly. And this is a real shame as the premise is interesting enough.


Caralee The second book is better.


message 11: by Kat (new)

Kat From chapter one it felt inconsistent and unclear, so I put it down. I've actually grown intensely frustrated with YA in general. But then is my ow writing truly any better?


Angel I agree with the review. I was not invested when I began, just picking it up when I had time (slow, same aggravation with the issues pointed out here). Then I finished the book and felt, well that wasn't bad, and honestly, if I didn't have that nagging feeling that I HAVE to read the entire series just because it was there, and again, the first book wasn't bad, I would not have given the series a second thought. THE NEXT TWO BOOKS ARE SOOO MUCH BETTER. Going to read more of the authors stuff now. I recommend the series just because of the last book honestly.


Rachel I haven't read it yet, but I checked it out of the library about two days ago, most thought it was terrible, but it really intrigued me. What should I expect?


message 8: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Small Jeremy wrote: "I agree i found the whole concept to be really corny and stupid not to mention very unrealistic"

DUDE. Fantasy books are completely unrealistic, but SOME people love them... I thought the entire delirium series was great!


message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy "What about the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of a per­son who wasn’t loved? Who was a prod­uct of the sys­tem? I feel like this wasn’t exam­ined enough – wasn’t inspected enough. Like it was han­dled by some­one who just assumed that chil­dren would still reflect some mod­icum of nor­mal­ity after being raised in a world where they aren’t being lov­ingly raised by peo­ple prop­erly attached to them. And the assump­tion that you can have attach­ment with­out love – it’s mind bog­gling because I kind of feel like she was out of her depth on this one"
Years ago, my early childhood education professor showed us a video about monkeys (they looked like Marcel from Friends, can't remember what they're called) who were deprived of their mother's touch. Some were given puppets or robots (can't remember) that stood stationary with a bottle. The monkeys eventually died. The same professor also told us of a hospital that was short staffed and for some reason,a lot the babies in the nursery started dying. Later it was determined that babies need attention, love, touch, etc, to even survive.


Treehugger I loved the writing. She is a fantastic writer, but the book was sooooooo slow. It just dragged. I was bored. Lena just went on and on and over explained EVERYTHING. But the writing itself is good. It just need to be about 200 pages shorter.


message 5: by Zoe (last edited Oct 31, 2015 06:43PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Zoe The inconsistency around the use of the word "love" is really a bad error that detracts from any world plausibility the writer created. In Chapter 17 I think, we get a long paragraph where Lana is freaking out about the word "love". After some inner turmoil she finally says out loud that she "loves" the starry night sky. It is a momentous moment for she claims she has never pronounced the word "love" before and barely even let herself think it! Hah! As Kat pointed out, she tells her aunt she "loves children" when practising what to say in the evaluations and her aunt responds positively telling Lana this is a good thing to say to the evaluaters! WTF! Lana also mentally uses the word "love" alot e.g. "I love food/TV show/etc". Yet in one chapter, Lana explains that the police go around with listening devices to pick up any forbidden words like "love" that could suggest people suffering deliria. Clearly it is NOT okay to go around saying you love things. Love is clearly a taboo word. I could accept that perhaps love is taboo only when said in relation to loving a person or pet, but then why does Lana freak out so much over finally saying out loud that she loves the night sky? She didn't have a problem with loving cakes or children. Maybe I'm expecting too much. I almost feel like stopping reading now (85% through the first novel) because if the author/editors could allow this gaping plot hole, what else have they let slip through the net? It would have been good if all uses of the word "love" were thoroughly checked for plot consistency since the whole series is about love...


Ashlee I completely agree with this review. Ever since I read Uglies by Scott Westerfeld I love books about a dystopian society based on flawed and brainwashed views on life, etc. because it forces me to think critically about the issues this dystopian society has decided to control.

Delirium has decided to focus on love, which I thought was a bold move from the get go because there are so many forms of love and it drives much of our actions and relationships with people. It would change how people even look at having children. A mother's first instinct is to love their child. How does one remove love from the Daily activities a parent does in child care? If a child is flawed, will it affect how they handle the child? How do children relate to each other vs adults since they still have the ability to love?

Just the fact that Hanna said she loves children should have been a slap in the face to such a society and concept. And why does her aunt take her in? She should have no attachment to the orphaned child in such a world. Shouldn't Alex visiting his father's grave also be another redflag as being a sympathizer? Sad to say but I expected a heartless utilitarian society with children who were detached and more cruel to each other. That realism was lost for me. Well except for that dog scene and the raid scene. Those were the closest things to a society void of love.

Also, I'm coming from Uglies which also had a concept of resistors who also lived beyond the wall of protection. But these people had to travel far,for weeks and in riddles on vehicles to find their settlement. The fact that Alex got to the invalids within hours on foot was baffling to me. How could they live so close to the city wall and not be found, raided and killed by the regulators? Do they not control the border? I find it hard to believe that a society so against the resisters wouldn't scout the wild near them for any other resisters.

I know it is just a book and just a concept but these little things are making it hard for me to fully emerse myself in the storyline. I was looking forward to another series to binge read but I'm starting to wonder if I should continue after this. I keep hearing pandemonium is good though, so maybe I will


Renette Julius I dnf this book. Just couldn't do it. The idea that the ability to love could be removed via brain surgery is implausible, but I'm fine with that. I actually like the implausible, if the author follows it through to it's natural conclusion. I agree that Oliver didn't explore all the ramifications of a loveless society. I thought Nalini Singh did a much better job in her Psy-Changeling series. But the real problem I had with this book is that I just couldn't get into it.


message 2: by Keyana (new) - added it

Keyana That's not a way to talk to a book if u thought u weren't going to like it u shouldn't have read it


message 1: by Keyana (new) - added it

Keyana That's not a way to talk to a book if u thought u weren't going to like it u shouldn't have read it


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