The greatest gift of all?

  Delirium, by Lauren Oliver (2011)

PHASE ONE: Preoccupation, difficulty focusing; dry mouth; perspiration, sweaty palms; fits of dizziness and disorientation; reduced mental awareness, racing thoughts, impaired reasoning skills

PHASE TWO: Periods of euphoria, hysterical laughter and heightened energy; periods of despair, lethargy; changes in appetite rapid weight loss or weight gain; fixation, loss of other interests; compromised reasoning skills, distortion of reality; disruption of sleep patterns, insomnia or constant fatigue; obsessive thoughts and actions; paranoia, insecurity

Any idea the disease whose symptoms I’m describing? Some sort of flu? Maybe mono? No? Let me keep going…

PHASE THREE: Difficulty breathing; pain in the chest, throat, or stomach; difficulty swallowing, refusal to eat; complete breakdown of rational faculties, erratic behavior, violent thoughts and fantasies, hallucinations and delusions

Figured it out yet?

PHASE FOUR: Emotional or physical paralysis (partial or total); death.

There’s only one disease this could be describing. Think about it. What makes all of us crazy at some point in our lives?

…. Love, of course.

Or as it is known in Lena Haloway’s society, amor deliria nervosa. Set in a future America, sixty-four years after the American President declared love to be a disease, Lena is one of many teenagers anxiously awaiting their eighteenth birthday, the day when they will receive the surgery that will cure them of the deliria forever. Following the surgery, people live content, non-threatening lives, free from any pain or heartbreak. Lena has 95 days till her surgery, and can’t think of much else but her upcoming examination which will determine her future,  including who she will be paired with for marriage. But on the morning of her examination, Hana, Lena’s gorgeous, happy-go-lucky best friend whispers something outrageous to her: “You know you can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes, right?”

Lena is horrified. Is it possible that her very best friend could be a “resistor”, someone who rebels against the government and, if caught, is executed or at the very least, thrown in the Crypts? To find out for sure, Lena follows Hana to an underground party, where illegal music is pumping, and–horror of all horrors–boys and girls are dancing, touching, laughing together. On her way out of the party, Lena runs into Alex, a strange boy she met earlier that week. Although he’s been cured–making it legal for them to spend time together–he certainly doesn’t act like it, and Lena is suspicious of his friendliness. But for some reason she can’t explain, she’s drawn to him, and when he asks her to dance, she’s unable to say no.

It doesn’t take much to figure out what happens next. Before too long, something in Lena has changed. She’s still counting down the days till her surgery, but soon it’s with dread rather than excitement. Could everything she’s ever known and wished for be one massive lie? Is her community really as peaceful as it seems? What lies beyond the gates surrounding her city? Can one person really change Lena’s life?

Fairly reminiscent of Scott Westerfeld’s The Uglies, Lena’s story joins a long line of other dystopian novels that encourage readers to imagine what our society will become, to question the norm, and to fight for what is truly important.

It took me a while to get into, but of course, once into it, I could do little else but read. More than 24 hours later, I’m still wishing there were more pages to turn. Luckily, Oliver will eventually fulfill my wish, as she completes the trilogy with two more stories about Lena.

Exciting, though sometimes predictable, 2 stars

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