alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 23-24: Pandemonium and Requiem by Lauren Oliver

The very short, spoiler-free version of this review is: you will want to read the sequels if you’ve read Delirium, because you’ll want to know how the story ends. For this reason, they are probably both worth reading. A lot of what made Delirium such a strong novel, though, is lost in Pandemonium and Requiem: the pacing gets kind of uneven, and Oliver’s prose — which I have praised before and is still very lush and almost musical — starts to overwhelm itself sometimes, especially in the scenes in the Wilds. Some of the scene-setting is abstract and convoluted, and I ended up having to re-read sections a couple of times to figure out what she was talking about.

Pandemonium has these issues, but at the end of the day I still ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads, which is clearly not a “bad” score. We got some nice development on Lena, our protagonist, as she learns to cope with her new situation, and there is a lot of fun action and twisted revelations. The end, though, was telegraphed a mile away, which took me out of my enjoyment (my reaction at the end: “Come on, really? I was expecting this and I wish you didn’t prove me right!”) After the jump is the rest of the review, because that exasperation that began at the end of Pandemonium and continued into Requiem is spoilery. So – henceforth, THERE BE SPOILERS.

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alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 22: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

deliriumGoodreads: “They say that the cure for Love will make me happy and safe forever.

And I’ve always believed them.

Until now.

Now everything has changed.

Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.”

I wanted to review Delirium, the first book of its trilogy, separately from the other two because I felt that this is a much stronger book than its sequels, so it deserves to be reviewed on its own merit.

There is a pretty implausible premise, here, that you just have to accept and move on if you’re going to enjoy this book. I’m pretty good at willing suspension of disbelief, so I dove right in and took Oliver at her word that in the future, we’ve decided that love — and the litter of hot-blooded emotions it inspires — is a disease that we can cure. The cure has resulted in a society that seems to be on its surface much more peaceful, efficient, productive, and obedient. Of course, we know that this can’t be true, because this is a dystopian novel, so early on we also learn that there are Uncureds and Invalids, or people who have been literally “invalidated” in society by refusing the cure. Furthermore, administration of the cure has been demonstrated to be unsafe before the age of 18, but anyone who has ever met a teenager knows that they are pretty good at falling in love or something like it before the age of 18. As such, there are many small acts of rebellion among the as-yet-uncured youth that need to be discovered and squashed by violent patrol groups of cured adults called Regulators. In case it’s not perfectly clear, the violence that these groups employ is evidence that simply “curing” love doesn’t stamp out our most base tendencies.

At its bare bones, this is a story about forbidden love: forbidden because love itself is, and because the boy Lena falls in love with is an Uncured, and the only way they could be together is if Lena rejects her arranged match and flees to the Wilds, territory that has been given up by the regulated society. The story is elevated, in my mind, firstly by Oliver’s prose, which is really beautiful and descriptive and appropriately fraught with teen anxiety (though it doesn’t come off as too whiny or excessively dramatic, just urgent.) She has a way of drawing me right into Lena’s thoughts such that I don’t feel like I’m just observing the action, but that I’m actually in it. Secondly, I think Oliver has written a love interest who is actually compelling beyond just being attractive: there is that tantalizing hint of danger to him, but Alex is also clever, respectful, and protective of Lena without being overbearing. He understands her and the peril she puts herself in simply by being with him, so he never tries to push her too far. He actually seems to love her back, rather than just trying to seduce her into his way of life. While in many other tortured love YA stories I’m just supposed to accept that this is deep, epic love for some reason, having Lena’s love seem real, justified, and reciprocated makes the decisions she makes more relate-able. Taken with Oliver’s engrossing prose, it really does have the effect of making you feel like you are the one falling in love.

The hardest thing about writing a review for this book is that I would really highly recommend it, except that you really can’t just read it on its own. It was written with the sequels in mind, and the sequels are, well, not bad, but just unsatisfying. I don’t want to doom anyone to that frustration, so I guess the best thing I can say is that for me, it was still worth it. If, even knowing how I would feel by the end of book 3, I got to go back and choose whether or not to read the Delirium series again, I would still do it for the thrall of this first book.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #37: Delirium Stories by Lauren Oliver

16177805Okay, first, what is this annoying trend where authors omit bits of their story and put them in these short novellas? I hate it. It’s commercial and gross, I hate feeling obligated to read them, and it annoys me that they exist. With that said, I spotted this compilation of stories from Lauren Oliver’s Delirium world on the shelf at my library, and because it was in book form, the completionist in me knew I had to read it.

The three stories in the book (plus a chapter from Requiem, released before its publication date) are told from the perspectives of Hana (Lena’s childhood best friend), Annabel (Lena’s mother), and Raven (the leader of Lena’s group in the Wilds). All three stories show us alternate POVs for events that happened both during and before the Delirium books. And, I suppose to justify their existence as something other than a ploy to get rabid fans to pay more money, there are some revelations included.

The chief ‘pleasure’ of Annabel’s story is that we have heard virtually none of it, but Hana’s and Raven’s give us another view of events that have already happened. The chief revelation in Hana’s story is that she is the one who turned Lena and Alex in to the authorities in book one (something I learned for the first time when I read Requiem, but it was published here first). Raven’s is that she was fucking pregnant when she died, something that wasn’t even included in Requiem. I have bones to pick with both of these ‘revelations.’ Raven’s is the most obvious: if she was pregnant, we should have known about it. This is yet another example of how Oliver’s strict adherence to Lena’s POV (and Hana’s in Requiem) is a detriment to the story, as more often than not, Lena is an idiot with her head up her butt. Hana’s is a bit more complicated. There was virtually no clue in Delirium that Hana was so pissed off at Lena, so it feels like retconning when we learn about it. Again, I know this is in large part because if Lena didn’t know something, we didn’t know it either, but why limit yourself as an author to such a dull perspective?

I enjoyed the voices of all three of these women 1000% more than I enjoyed Lena’s. If Oliver would have included their POVs in the three novels, they would have been so much better, not only because we wouldn’t have had to spend all that time with Lena, but because it would have allowed her to open up the world she was building as an author in a much more in depth way (I know she included Hana as a POV in Requiem, but that’s a case of too little, too late). On a positive note, these stories on their own are much better pieces of writing than the main three books. Short stories suit Oliver’s poetical style.

Officially done with this series!

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #33: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

requiemNote: 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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Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 12: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

UnknownThere are a lot of YA dystopian trilogies out there, and its really hard to know what you’ll end up with when you make the decision to start reading one. I had more faith in the Delirium series than I should have — Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall is one of the lovelier YA books I’ve read over the past few years. Before I Fall was filled with realistic characters and beautiful writing, and I cried at the end.

And maybe that’s why I am way more disappointed in Requiem than I really have any right to be. We all know Oliver can — and has — done better.

For the uninitiated, the Delirium trilogy takes place in a future where love has been classified as a contagious disease and is eradicated at age 18 with a mandatory procedure (I’m thinking its kind of like a partial lobotomy). Each citizen is matched up to marry with someone deemed their equal by the local government. Love — or any other emotion — is simply not a factor.

In book 1, our heroine, Lena, fled from Portland Maine, into “the wilds”, in order to escape the future that had been planned for her. And because this is a YA trilogy, Lena wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t met super-cute Alex, a boy from the wilds who teaches Lena how life could be outside the city. Lena and Alex’s escape attempt is botched, and she fears he is dead when she crosses over into the woods.

In book 2, Lena makes her way into the wilds, and finds herself a part of a new community. She toughens up and learns how to survive on her own. She also becomes a spy for the resistance against the government, and ends up kidnapped along with the super-cute son of the enemy. She and Julian escape back to the wilds, only to find that Alex is still alive.

Which brings us to book 3.

Told in alternating narratives between Lena and her former best friend from Portland, Hana, we get a glimpse at what is going on both outside and inside Portland.

Lena and her group are constantly on the move, constantly fighting for survival, and always waiting for the day when they can try and bring down the government and live life any way they choose.

Meanwhile, Hana is about to marry Fred, the mayor of Portland, but she isn’t happy or excited about it. She wonders if her delirium “cure” has worked at all, and spends a lot of time regretting decisions she made before Lena and Alex tried to escape. She’s also curious about Fred’s ex-wife, and why she can’t find out any information about their marriage. Its as if she never existed in the first place.

Shockingly, by the end of the story, the two narratives come together. Will Hana help Lena or turn her in to the authorities? Will Lena be able to apologize to her family for leaving so suddenly? And who will Lena choose — ALEX OR JULIAN? ZOMG!

The plot of this one was so slow for the first two-thirds of the book. Walking, hiding, running, thinking about Alex and Julian. The walking went on and on and on. And then, suddenly, things got interesting. Lena and Hana were together, and it seemed like something interesting could potentially happen.

Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last long. Nothing interesting happened.* The end.

I’ll continue to follow Lauren Oliver’s career, because I know she can do better. But I don’t intend to watch the Delirium show on Fox next year, and I think its going to be a while before I pick up another YA trilogy.

*OK, one interesting thing. Hana’s decision regarding Fred at the end was kind of awesome. But that’s one tiny thing in a sea of boring.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 12: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Goodreads summary: What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death–and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

There is another blog I read, Forever Young Adult, that is aimed at a crowd they call “a little more A than Y” and serves up (among other things) reviews of YA books. Despite their site slogan, they still have a category for books that fall into the inverse: “a little more Y than A.” That category is where I’d place Before I Fall.

This is not a bad book by any means. In fact, technically speaking, it’s pretty great; but, despite its Groundhog Day conceit and superb character arc, it was difficult for me to enjoy. This is, in part, due to the authenticity with which Oliver captures the adolescent voice, which is one of those technically-speaking “good things” I was talking about. To read such a voice now, though, without any of the trappings of dystopia or paranormal fantasy that so much of popular YA these days revels in, feels uncomfortable and un-relateable. At the beginning of the book, Sam is one of the Mean Girls. She and her three best friends aren’t Mary Sue popular girls who are pretty and smart and also nice — they’re bullies, and they lie, cheat, and steal. We aren’t supposed to like these girls, and Oliver candidly lays their nasty qualities out without any hint of apologia. It’s risky, because she risks alienating readers by giving us a purposefully shallow, vain, and unsympathetic protagonist. And I almost was alienated. Not only was I struggling through the earnestly presented “typical teen issues,” but I was also given a lead who was the kind of person I wouldn’t have cared to befriend, even as a teenager.

But then, somehow, throughout the book, she helps us understand the Mean Girls better. She doesn’t redeem them, per se, but Sam comes to see herself and her friends as others do (“I am a bitch,” she tells one of the girls they bullied, not looking for sympathy or forgiveness, just stating it as a fact.) Another interesting choice that gives the girls dimension is that Oliver fleshes out the quality of their friendships. Many times in the Mean Girls narrative (and indeed, in Mean Girls itself) there is the suggestion that the popular girls wouldn’t even be friends if they weren’t bound by their popularity. Oliver turns that on its head a bit and gives us some moments to suggest that there is real friendship there. Even at the end, when Sam is attempting to fix some of went wrong by way of her being a bitch, she doesn’t disavow her shallow, popular friends; rather, she states things she loves about them, but that she now sees the bad that comes with the good.

All of that is to say: I commend Lauren Oliver’s work here. Reading this was literally like tripping and falling back into high school. The characters and angst felt real, and the conclusion of the book was pretty emotional (I won’t admit to crying, but I was misty for sure.) The question for you, would-be reader, is: do you want to go back to high school? I was neither bullied horribly nor a textbook popular girl, and this was already a difficult enough mindset to get back into, so I can only imagine how it could be to relate to anyone on the extreme ends of the popularity spectrum as described here. The book is a quick read, but it’s an emotional investment.