Delirium

Delirium by Lauren Oliver is a fantastic example of a YA dystopian novel. Dystopian stories appeal to teens (and me) for a number of reasons

  • They allow for honourable rebels. Teens are notoriously rebellious and dystopia validates this by creating a justifiable rebellion.
  • By the same token, they present characters like the good-hearted bad boy, a stereotypical ideal that appeals to young female readers such as myself (hey, I’m youngish!)
  • They elaborate on the flaws that trouble us in our own society and let us think about issues from a safe distance, stories in our own time sometimes hit too close to home and are harder not to bias about
  • They have the opportunity to include action, adventure, romance, mystery and basically anything you could want in a story

Love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all things, it kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

Delirium is a lot like Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, because there is a socially and politically mandated surgery that everyone undergoes. In both stories a piece of the personality is removed from citizens to maintain order and fix some perceived flaw in human nature. I find it interesting that in Uglies they remove intelligence and heighten emotion and in Delirium they remove feeling to focus on logic. Hyper sexuality vs. repressed sexuality but equally dystopian! Both alterations are disguised as prevention of heartbreak and loneliness but result in an irresponsible and dysfunctional population ruled by a totalitarian government.

This is a common element of dystopian novels, but Oliver does a great job of exploring the hegemony and brainwashing involved. She also create an interesting social structure that reinforces the control of those in powers.

Family history and the bond between children and their parents who have been disgraced feels incredibly real. The infatuation and the discovery of intimacy in the context of a sexually repressed society is well done. The giddiness of first love described in terms of illness is executed exquisitely. Oliver has a talent for portraying emotional connections.

There is some sneaking over an electric fence that reminds me of another great dystopian novel that’s gotten lots of attention: The Hunger Games. I don’t think she’s a copycat though, Oliver makes the novel her own with her beautiful diction and uses familiar tropes to explore a unique perspective of love.

If you like the statement “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, this is a book for you. Lauren Oliver is definitely an author to keep track of.

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