Note: In order to prevent myself from devolving into a sputtering pile of incoherent verbiage when I inevitably attempted to review this book (which I went into honestly hoping to like, but more realistically believing I would end up — to us a mild turn of phrase — disliking), I decided to bust out the good old reading journal format in order to more carefully document my thoughts as I read. Be warned: apart from a brief synopsis at the beginning of this review, spoilers ahoy! Oh boy, are they ahoy.
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Requiem is the third and final book in the Delirium trilogy (soon to be a TV show starring Emma Roberts! Sadly, yes, I will be watching — I am morbidly curious). Lauren Oliver’s story takes place in a dystopia in some alternate world (or perhaps near future world, who knows, it’s really vague) where love has been declared a disease. Amor deliria nervosa, they call it. Also: the deliria.
Book three picks up right where we left off in Pandemonium. Alex, Lena’s former boy toy, has joined their group of Invalids. Hana, Lena’s former best friend, is living in Portland and about to marry the almost-mayor, Fred Hargrove. The Resistance is planning its first big offensive, attempting to take back their freedom. All of these plotlines will presumably converge at the end, and we will find out: Who is Lena going to choose, Julian or Alex? What will happen to Hana? Will the Resistance succeed in bringing back the old way of life, before the Cure became mandatory?
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pg. 1 — “That’s Hana, reaching out across an expanse of time, through the murky-thick layers of memory, stretching a weightless hand to me as I am sinking.”
Well, hey there, dear Reader. Welcome to Requiem! I have lots and lots of empty poetical imagery lined up for you in the next 390 pages! Hope you’re strapped in! I mean, seriously. Maybe the time thing is okay, although the idea of a hand reaching across it metaphorically is a tad melodramatic, but by the time I get to the “murky-thick memories,” and then the weightless hand thing, I’m just done. And she’s still got some “sinking” left in her after that. It’s too much. Not to mention, what does that even mean? Weightless hand? Okay, obviously weightless literally means ‘without weight’, and metaphorically she might be going for some sort of, I don’t know, emotional thing? But it’s unnecessary and cumbersome. And totally indicative of Oliver’s writing style. I do acknowledge at this point that I definitely seem to be the wrong reader for her, although shut up yes I will eventually read Before I Fall to give her a fourth (!) chance, but I can’t help myself. I have to finish this trilogy.
pg. 3 — Okay, feeling better. Oliver just described a mall sign as being covered in “bird shit,” which I thought was pretty awesome. On the other hand, I realized I have no idea who half the people are she’s writing about. I remember Lena and Julian and Raven and Alex but the rest of them? Who cares.
pg. 6 — LENA STOP BEING A TURD TO JULIAN AND TELL HIM WHAT IS GOING ON. ALEX STOP IGNORING LENA SHE THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD. GOD.
pg. 35 — I like Oliver’s impulse to give us the story from Hana’s perspective because it widens the world she’s working in here, but I don’t think it’s working out the way she wanted it to. There’s not very much difference between Hana’s voice and Lena’s voice (except maybe that Hana doesn’t make ridiculous, flowery, vaguely poetical statements every five seconds like Lena does). No, I think the real problem with Hana as narrator is that it highlights something that has been bothering me since book one: I don’t fully buy into the conceit that an entire world (or maybe just country?) would ever believe that love was a disease. How did this belief come to exist? How did a whole community full of intelligent scientists not only allow that belief to persist, but to flourish? How is The Cure even accomplished? I wasn’t aware there was a specific part of the brain marked ‘love,’ and even if there was, that neurologists could manage to map the unmappable brain well enough for them to figure it out. Until I read this Hana chapter, I’d been under the assumption that The Cure not only “cured” people of love, but also of most emotion, of caring, of human attachments. But Hana’s voice does not follow that assumption. She’s depressed and caged, sure, but she doesn’t sound like she has no emotion. She still worries. She still has fear. She still cares if people like her or not, and if she likes them. I’m not buying it from her, and since she’s the only Cured person we’ve ever gotten POV from, suddenly the rest of this fictional world’s premise is crumbling. I’m not buying it.
pg. 40 — Well, there’s one answer at least: it’s only in the USA.
pg. 67 — Okay, I think I’ve held out long enough. I can’t stay quiet about how much I hate — no, loathe — that cover. It’s probably not even an exaggeration that my hatred of the cover is actually making me cranky while I read, and I’m even more primed to be annoyed by what I’m reading. I usually take the jacket covers off my books while I read, but since this is a library book, every time I pick it up, that stupid model with her stupid lips and stupid eyes is staring me in the face. If I were Lauren Oliver, I would have thrown a shit fit if they tried to redesign my books into looking like this crap. The first edition hardcover of Delirium was quite pretty, and I thought, thematically appropriate. This POS cover has nothing to do with the story at all. And her face is way way too big. And surrounded inexplicably by flowers. It is awful and I hate it and it makes me want to punch myself in the neck. (The cover on the right is the UK version. It is so much better in every way.)
pg. 98 — Okay, despite what I said, Hana’s chapters are my favorites. Lena’s are all angsty and WAH WAH WAH and full of love triangle. Hana’s chapters (so far) are refreshingly free of triangular love messes so they automatically get high fives. HIGH FIVE HIGH FIVE.
pg. 150 — Will admit I’m being sucked into the story in spite of everything else. I’ve heard the ending to this book/series is kind of out of left field, and besides predicting that Lena will end up with Alex (this is the problem with love triangles — I’ve never read one that doesn’t make it super obvious who is going to end up with who), and that Hana is obviously rejecting her Cure, I have no idea where it’s going to end up. So points for that, Lauren Oliver.
pg. 212 — First real plot development in Lena’s section finally happened (there is a whole lot of nothing going on). Most of her chapters feature her and her group of Invalids wandering through the Wilds being miserable and jealous (BTW, Invalids is a name that annoys me because the meaning of that word is already taken, and its clear by the way that Oliver is using it to mean ‘not valid’ that you’re supposed to pronounce it differently, which is even more annoying, because if she wanted it pronounced like that it should have been spelled in-valids or something else — ending pointless rant now). Lu is apparently a traitor . . . and whoop de doo? She wandered away from the group for a couple of weeks and got herself cured and then decided to backstab everybody. That reminds me, because Lu is described this way, Oliver must have used the phrase ‘hot and sour’ to describe bad breath at least ten times in this book by now, which is too many times, but also stop because I will never be able to eat hot and sour soup again. I have wandered far from my point and I don’t even care.
pg. 235 — Hana turned Alex and Lena in to the authorities in book one, just because she was jealous? Insert long, low whistle here.
pg. 341 — Let’s talk about Lena and Alex (and by extension, Julian). I figured my thoughts about the romantic relationships would bubble to the surface eventually while reading, and I guess now is that time. I’ve covered this briefly, but basically Alex has been acting like a giant baby and refusing to speak to Lena (and Julian) for the entire book. He and Lena have a brief confrontation (right before being attacked by a bear, btw) in the woods in the beginning of the book where Lena tries to explain that she had to move on with her life because THAT’S WHAT NORMAL PEOPLE DO, ALEX, but he is apparently unmoved and also a thirteen year girl, because his response to her is basically WELL I NEVER LIKED YOU ANYWAY. And she believes him . . . yeah. After how he acted in the first book, like he was her soulmate and he would kill himself if she ever died and he’s Romeo to her Juliet? Yeah, Lena, the logical explanation here is that he’s telling you the truth and he never loved you, not that he’s lying to you now because he’s immature and also stupid. Yeah, what’s really going on is that your memories are all false, and he must have spent all that time with you for no reason, and obviously your own thoughts and perceptions about the relationship were totally wrong, you stupid, stupid girl. Not to mention, let’s think logically here, if he really didn’t love you, do you think he would be acting like this? Don’t you think if there were no feelings there he could act normal and not drag your boyfriend (poor Julian) out to the woods, beat him practically senseless in the guise of teaching him to fight, and then run away like a little shit into the woods. And yet, she’s still surprised when Coral (it’s a long story) tells her that Alex was still in love with her this whole time. It honestly rocks her to the core, like it’s the biggest fucking surprise in the universe. “He loves me? No that’s not right! He TOLD me he NEVER loved me, so that MUST be true.” Somebody get me a baseball bat or something else heavy so I can hit this girl over the head with it. What’s worse is that Oliver also insults us as her readers by treating this moment like a revelation, not only for Lena, but for us as well. Honey, I was there five seconds before Alex even made the confession to Lena. That’s how insulting this storyline is. I knew exactly how it would play out before it even started moving.
pg. 391 —
Uh, what the fuck was that ending? What in the actual fuck.
So it’s later and I’ve calmed down, but only a little. I am of two opinions. The first opinion is that it’s kind of brave for Oliver to have ended the book like that, which is to say that she didn’t end it at all. Almost nothing was accomplished, and even though there were some storylines that were resolved, you could also argue that there weren’t. The second opinion is the louder one, and it goes something like this: NOPE. That was not an ending. There was no resolution. I’m not even sure there was a climax. We just spent three books in this world, and we’re left with basically no answers whatsoever. The book ends with Lena and the other Invalids literally tearing down the wall that surrounds Portland. Lena hasn’t chosen between Julian and Alex (although you get the feeling she is going to choose Alex). Hana just walks off into the sunset wearing a wedding dress. We have no idea what is going to happen to these people. On the one hand, it’s very poetic. On the other, I don’t care, because I didn’t sign up for a book series that was secretly a poem. I signed up for plot movement and climax and resolution. Of which there was none. Sure, we can extrapolate that somehow the Invalids took back the city. And that later on down the line after this initial attack by the Resistance on Portland, and after much fighting, maybe the country, too.
She also never gave us any backstory or credible world-building. At all. These books were literally just an extended metaphor. She didn’t care about details or building a credible world or having actual things happen in her plot. She just cared about imagery. And maybe there are readers out there who think that’s awesome, but I am not one of them. Maybe even I would have liked the ending if the rest of the story had given me more, or if the writing had been less full of itself, less about getting a message across than about telling a story. For example, here are the last words of the book:
All of you, wherever you are: in your spiny cities or you one-bump towns. Find it, the hard stuff, the links of metal and chink, the fragments of stone filling your stomach. And pull, and pull, and pull.
I will make a pact with you: I will do it if you will do it, always and forever.
Take down the walls.
Yeah that about sums it up.