Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet. Still, I worry.
They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.
Can I gush for just a moment? Because
oh my gosh, holy cow, sweet fancy tap shoes, my heart is aching.
There. Much better.
So, here’s the scoop:
Lena lives in a time when love in all forms has been abolished. It’s considered to be the deadliest of diseases, a word you shouldn’t so much as whisper. Outward expressions of love and joy (like hand-holding, smiling and dancing) are frowned upon and considered to be warning signs that the disease, referred to as amor deliria nervosa, has taken root. Each individual is raised to fear infection and most look forward to their eighteenth birthday when they will have a surgical procedure—a brain surgery of sorts—to make them immune to amor deliria nervosa, thus protecting them and society from its dangerous effects. By surgically altering people, they no longer live in fear, but are desensitized and unattached to the people and world around them. At their core most—both those cured and those uncured— know it’s right because they’ve been raised to fear the consequences of going against the grain.
Lena’s mother was never cured, though she had the procedure multiple times. She ended her own life when Lena was a young girl and thus brought the family shame. Lena, on the verge of turning eighteen, looks forward to her own procedure so that she can leave behind her family’s disgrace and be matched with a suitable husband. She follows the rules of society and believes what she has been told about the dangers of the disease, yet somewhere inside of her, she clings to the memories of her mother; of the hugs, the laughter and the tenderness she poured out upon Lena and her sister when away from the prying eyes of the community.
Obviously for this story to work, Lena needs to find someone—that someone. When she meets Alex, she’s drawn to him with a new and intense force and their interactions simmer beautifully. Lena is trapped between the new, breathtaking emotions she feels (surely sign that she is in the first phases of the dreaded disease), her fears of infection and worse, the consequences of such sins. She feels a sense of dread over her scheduled procedure, which looms in the not-too-distant future, threatening to steal her joy, her mind and her love for Alex. Together they’re convinced that there must be another way.
From the moment we meet Lena, we know she is like us. She’s not some incredible heroine who’s going to karate chop every person who stands between her and her man. She’s not the mastermind who’s going to hack the computer system to make the country’s defenses crumble. She’s normal. She wants to be safe. She wants to do what is right, but her views are dramatically changed once she gets to know Alex—once she experiences the freedom of sneaking out, of hearing music, of putting her head on his chest. Once she experiences love again.
And Alex. Oh sweet, swoonypants Alex. Alex, who would risk anything for Lena, who makes her feel like the most beautiful, incredible creature in all of existence instead of like the plain, nothing special girl humiliated by her family’s past sins. Alex is such a perfect hero because he shows Lena a new world by simply loving her and asking for nothing in return. Though he’s essentially powerless, by showing her love he rescues her from a life sentence of nothingness.
And, you know, he’s totally hot too.
The story itself was excellent. Yes, the premise is far-fetched—but it’s creative and Lena’s narration made me feel immersed in her world and locked into her heart. Though at first, I felt the story stopped and started a bit too much, (right when the story would get good, it would slow down), in retrospect, I think this showed Lena’s life in its truest form; how she would get caught up in the rush of seeing Alex, and then she’d go back to her real life and its dreary emptiness. After she and Alex truly connect, the pace does not let up and I truly could not stop thinking about the story or its characters.
The biggest bonus to reading any Lauren Oliver novel is, of course, her incredible, beautiful prose. I mean seriously, girl can write! I dog-eared so many pages, re-read so many portions and literally wanted to drink her words. Her talent is extraordinary, both in the words she uses and in the stories she creates. If you haven’t read one of her stunning novels, do yourself a favor and pick one up, please, for the love of everything holy.
Crush Intensity: 5/5 Loved it. Loved Lena. Loved Alex.
Alex doesn’t question me or laugh. He keeps watching me steadily. For a moment he seems on the verge of saying something. But then he just hold out his hand to me across the space, across the dark.
“Would you like to?” he says. His voice is hardly audible above the wind–so low it’s barely a whisper.
“Would I like to what?” My heart is roaring, rushing in my ears, and though there are still several inches between his hand and mine, there’s a zipping, humming energy that connects us, and from the heat flooding my body you would think we were pressed together, palm to palm, face to face.
“Dance,” he says, at the same time closing the last few inches and finding my hand and pulling me closer, and at that second the song hits a high note and I confuse the two impressions, of his hand and the soaring, the lifting of music.
And just one more because I can’t help myself:
He speaks on, words washing over me the way the sunlight skips over the surface of water and filters into the depths below, lighting up the darkness. I keep my eyes closed. Amazingly, I can still see the stars: whole galaxies blooming from nothing–pink and purple suns, vast silver oceans, a thousand white moons.