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.

Across The Universe

Beth Revis’ Across The Universe is nothing like the musical movie, if that’s what you’re thinking; it’s about a girl on a spaceship.

Most books marketed as science fiction for teens are more like fantasy, just set in space. I was pleasantly surprised that Across the Universe is an exception to this. It’s actually science fiction, heavy on the science, and Revis did an amazing job with making it interesting.  This was apparent from the very beginning, I expected being frozen for space travel to be like on Futurma, where they are frozen instantly and painlessly. I though Revis’ interpretation of the freezing process was both horrifying and logical.

Much of the book was terrifying to me, I hadn’t gone into it expecting to be afraid or disturbed but I was. The book has been hyped as a science fiction/ romance, but for me it was a science fiction/ horror. The terrible freezing process was only the first of many things that made me cringe, because Revis writes in such a way that it’s impossible not to put yourself in Amy’s shoes and poor Amy goes through a lot.

There were two major plot twists I predicted, but this didn’t make them any less satisfying. I was still on my toes (not literally of course) with anticipation of seeing if I was right, seeing how everything would unfold.

There is a lot of unconventional sexuality, so I would recommend this for older teens and warn librarians there will be parents who take offense, even though these scenes of sexuality are meant to be offputting to the teens.

This book counts toward the 2011 debut author challenge.

*Spoiler Alert***Spoiler Alert***Spoiler Alert****Spoiler Alert*

I was impressed with how Revis delved into the huge impact artificial hormones can have on a person. She takes it to the extremes, but it’s actually not as far-fetched as it may seem. A tiny hormonal imbalance can make you incredibly ill physically or affect your ability focus.

The effect of the drugs in this book reminded me of two other fantastic pieces of fiction. When taken in small doses the characters become “pretty-minded” like in Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Given larger amounts, the result is just like what happened with pax in the film Serenity (I wrote an essay about Serenity .) 

Harley was my favourite character and I think maybe the book should have been called little fish, or had the painting of the fish in the stars as cover art just to honour his awesomeness. Not that the current cover isn’t pretty darn awesome.

Being Pretty doesn’t mean you can’t stay bubbly!

Scott Westerfeld, you make me bubbly! If I had body art that moved with my heart beat it would be spinning as I read Pretties (Uglies book 2).

Tally has a dream that sums up much of the plot:

“So, there was this beautiful princess.She was locked in a high tower, one whose smart walls had clever holes in them that could give her anything: food, a clique fantastic friends, wonderful clothes. And, best of all, there was this mirror on the wall, so that the princess coul look at her beautiful self all day long.The only problem with the tower was that there was no way out. The builders had forgotten to put in an elevator, even a set of stairs. She was stuck up there.”

Tally’s time as a pretty is horrifying to me, but this is as it should be. She becomes the crazy party girl, she has shallow concerns, she’s disgusted by anyone without a surgically altered face and she has an extremely limited vocabulary.

Tally and the Crims seek out ways to feel bubbly, which turns out to mean lucid more than happy. I found it interesting that hunger made them think more clearly. I’ve never noticed myself more focused when hungry, just the opposite I’d say. What did make sense to me was the adrenaline rushes. Kissing, climbing, sky diving and pulling pranks are the best way to feel alive and awake. I was amazed at how they were able to fight off the damage done by lesions without surgery.

“Living in an unspoken conspiracy filled every gesture with significance, charged every shared touch with unspoken meaning”

 The relationship between Tally and Zane was believable. He made her feel alive, and important, isn’t that what a girl really wants? He gave her both a rush and a purpose.

Westerfeld did a good job at making us think about our rustie ways (endangering the environment) and the way we fall into media traps, being told what is beautiful.

I liked the line

“spending more time looking out the window than at her own reflection, as is often the case with troublesome girls”

but only because I know he says it with the mindset that she is right to look out the window and cause trouble.

*FYI This e-book was purchased and read on my Kobo.

In My Mailbox

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren, and I’m excited to participate this week because I got some great mail

sim me and mailbox

Advanced Reader Copies for review

Simon & Schuster Canada was kind enough to send me:

thanks Michelle!

Won

From Beth Revis (they are at work I will add a picture later)

  • 2 autographed bookmarks 
  • 1 autographed postcard
  • 1 autographed sticker

I entered that contest using my library info so the bookmarks and postcards wil4 books & an ebook on my couchl go to participating teens at the library. I swiped the sticker for myself because it’s awesome and I entered the contest in my free time 😉

Purchased

At Bookingham Palace:

  • Across The Universe by Beth Revis (I put my autograph sticker in the book, this is partly why I was so impatient to buy it. Marketing strategies work a little too well on me sometimes) The cover is delightful, I like to buy beautiful books, I’m shallow that way.

From the Kobo store

  • XVI by Julia Karr this looks both horrifying and awesome. I have the e-book on my computer and my Kobo, meaning it will be my lunchbreak/out and about book not my lazy day or nighttime book, probably for the best because I think I’m going to find it disturbing (in a that’s horrible but I’m glad you wrote about it kind of way).

Both of my purchased books will count towards the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

Borrowed

From the ORL:

  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I’m enjoying the Uglies series so far and I’ve heard great things about this other series by Westerfeld. It appeals to boys, and I’ve been wanting to read more guy friendly YA. I believe this one will count towards the Historical Fiction Challenge (even though it has fantastical elements).

Uglies

Note: Uglies is the first book other than the instruction manual that I’ve finished on my Kobo. I read the entire thing in airports or on planes.

“a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty” (from Goodreads)

Uglies (Uglies, #1)Scott Westerfeld is the insightful genius who wrote Uglies. I adored this book for a variety of reasons:

  • The entire thing is social commentary and I love to criticize
  • It’s very original and the setting is creative
  • The character development is pretty good and that’s always key for me
  • the imagery is fantabulous

Summary

Tally lives in a world where everyone receives plastic surgery to look beautiful and almost identical. She makes friends with someone who introduces her to the possibility of life beyond the shallow world of parties she has been looking forward to after her mandatory plastic surgery that she will have on her sixteenth birthday. She turns down the offer, not understanding how anyone would want to stay “ugly” but is blackmailed into going along as a spy for the Specials who enforce the falsely beautified and ditzified life of the city. Her plans to expose the rebels dissolve as she finds that individuality and aging aren’t so horrible after all.

Awesomeness

Maybe it’s the English Major in me taking over but I have to talk about the incredible microcosm Westerfeld creates in the chapter “Bug Eyes”. 

There is a breed of flowers that is gorgeous that humanity manipulated the genes so they would thrive. I knew immediately that these flowers were symbolic of the “pretties”. The genetic manipulation of the flowers creates a monoculture, and there is no biodiversity anywhere they go. This is a major problem with the “pretties”, everyone is the same and no individuality can thrive. Not even those interested in the flowers (hummingbirds) can survive if the monoculture continues. This is seen later in the “pretties” who are all made to be objectified but they have their hormones reduced so no one wants anyone the way they would have, everyone is beautiful but no one is there to really appreciate that beauty .

The flowers are described as victims of their own success. They are “so beautiful, so delicate and unthreatening but they choked everything around them”. This is like the “pretties” who are attractive with big child-like eyes but create a society where no one can develop naturally.  In case someone misses out on the obvious connection between the flowers and the people Tally is later described as “a weed” .

The rebel hideout is in the Old Grove Forest, a place that can resist the weed and has biodiversity. This biodiversity is not only seen in the plants and animals of the forest but the rebel camp, where people have different eyes, hair, bone structure and skin from one another unlike in the city.

The most memorable quote of the book is found in the chapter The Oil Plague:

“Maybe they didn’t want you to realize that every civilization has its weakness. There’s always one thing we depend on and if someone takes it away all that’s left is some story in a history class”.

Westerfeld makes a number of commentaries about our society in his novel:

  • The ideals of beauty change dramatically over time and from culture to culture. There are always people who take it too far trying to reach these ideals either through plastic surgery, anorexia, obsession with fashion….
  • Real beauty is internal and physical beauty is often in the “flaws”. We are attracted to the flaws of others but don’t accept our own. (I really love crooked smiles, and freckles. Think about how many famous people have moles or dimples that make them memorable)
  • Individuality is often washed away by mob mentality and the desire to fit in
  • We are way too reliant on fossil fuels. I love when she’s like “why didn’t they just walk?” talking about our society that is car obsessed. Everyone goes on an on about me not having a car. 90% of the time I’m glad I don’t have one, I think if I did have one I’d be even more lazy and waste fuel when I could be walking instead of only using it when I got heavy things or travelled far. We need more public transit in North America, or rather public transit that doesn’t suck.
  • Adults often forget what it’s like to be kids, forget that kids have pretty amazing minds
  • Preserving artifacts of past culture is an important function of libraries. I know not every public library can keep old materials, we don’t have room or the tools to keep them in good condition but I think more novels that go out of print should have copies available at some library. We’ve moved to providing what’s popular rather than having balanced collections. I wish we could do both! $$$

E-Book Factor

This was my first entire novel read on my Kobo. I found it to be seamless, most of the time I wasn’t aware I was reading in a different format. A couple times I accidentally skipped a page by double clicking but I’ve had print pages stick together and it wasn’t much harder to backtrack. It was a pain that I had to shut down the reader during takeoff and landing (I was reading on planes) but it was wonderfully light to lug around the airports, fit nicely in the pouch on the back of the seat in front of me, and did not hurt my eyes like a backlit screen would. 

If I was writing an essay not just reviews I would be bothered by the fact that it tells me the chapter and page within that chapter but not page within the book. The quote I gave from the Oil Plague chapter was page 13 of that chapter but I don’t know what page overall in the book. This numbering may change depending on the book or publisher so I’m not sure I can blame Kobo.