“Delirium” – A Dystopian Novel, How Does It Compare To “Matched” and “Uglies”?

Book Review : Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Spoiler Alert!

Lena and Hana have been best friends since second grade. They always knew when they were 18 they would be cured. Without the cure people are susceptible to contracting the worst disease ever, amor deliria nervosa, it can kill you if you have it or if you don’t. There is the possibility of side effects from the surgery, in the past some have gone crazy, blind and a few don’t have the ability to care for their children, but it seems a small price to pay for the opportunity to be safe, protected and free from pain. The government has provided walls to keep the infected in the wild away and diligently searches out sympathizers. The government will protect us.

Lena’s mother died because the surgery was unsuccessful and Lena can hardly wait to be safe at last, and then she meets Alex.

Adult Point of View

I found Delirium to be captivating. I am reminded of Matched and the Uglies, both dystopian novels, in some ways. Oliver’s novel brings new ideas forward making it original. I am reminded of Matched because in both novels the government is selecting a spouse for the young adults, and love has been twisted. I am partly reminded of Uglies because of the cover, but there is also the sense of worry over beauty. Oliver is original in her main premise: that love is a disease both for the individual and for society. In response to this disease the government has stepped in to protect it’s citizens by closing the international borders as well as surrounding each established city with a fence.

I enjoyed the authors excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. These excerpts include quotes from “The Book of Shhh” (The Safety, Healthy and Happiness Handbook), “The History Primer for Children”, “The Miracle Years: The Early Science of the Cure”, “Genesis: A Complete History of the World and the Known Universe” (by Steven Horace, PhD), children’s clapping games, sayings from “Comprehensive Compilation of Dangerous Words and Ideas” and other materials. I felt like I had a greater insight into the world that Lena lives in without slogging through tedious descriptions. I love it when books have tidbits like this!

In this dystopian, the government has wiggled its way into every aspect of the citizen’s life. The government has redefined religion; the trinity is described as the combination of God, Science and Order. Personal freedoms are suspended on raid nights. The government listens to all electronic communications and sensors books, music and all methods of expression. As an example, Romeo and Juliet is required reading, and is considered a cautionary tale. This take on Shakespeare’s classic made me smile. Even some colors are considered inappropriate, blue and green are safe, while red is too wild.

After reading a dystopian novel I always ask myself, “Is this possible?” In a sense, the dystopian is the cautionary tale. I can see elements in Delirium which make it believable, especially when we are asked to suspend our freedoms in favor of protection provided by the government.

I especially liked the character of Alex. He reminded me of a mischievous sprite full of wild freedom, but he had the moral character and drive to change the world. Hana was interesting because she appeared to be brave and rebellious, but was unwilling to give up her life of comfort. Grace was also interesting because her form of bravery was passive resistance. She refused to participate by societies’ rules by not speaking. Lena, as the main character, had the most growth through the novel as she came to learn and accept that she had been lied to her entire life. It was also telling that Lena was ready to escape into the Wild after discovering that her mother was alive and had escaped, rather than just running off to be with Alex, which would have been more typical of the teen romance genre. I was glad that she had such a strong tie with her mother. I would love to see more books where teens have a bond with a parent, instead of always rebelling.

Delirium has a sense of the questions that all teens will be asking while providing intellectual entertainment. Would it be too much to have it as required reading?

At one point Lena says, “I would rather die my way than live yours.” (p. 428) that could be alarming to a teen considering suicide. There are bits of strong language and some sensual scenes. I didn’t love it when Alex is observing Lena without her shirt on. I would recommend Delirium to teens over the age of 16 because of the mature ideas.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • the Mother


Book Review : Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Spoiler Alert!

Alex is dead! Lena drags herself through barely existing in the wild. Finally, Lena grabs back onto life in the wild as a way to hang onto Alex. Raven acts as a mother to Lena and this small band of humanity trying to survive in the wild. Everything changes on the day Lena discovers the signal, RED. And, red means run.

Lena is undercover as part of the resistance with Raven and Tack living in New York. Her job is to observe, and to not let Julian, the son of the leader of the DFA, out of sight. In the confusion at the rally Lena almost loses Julian and barely makes it into a corridor witnessing him being kidnapped. And worse yet, she is kidnapped too with only her backpack, The Book of Shhh, a few granola bars and an umbrella. Julian believes he will be ransomed, but Lena knows know one will pay a ransom for her.

Adult Point of View

Pandemonium increases the stakes in society. We learn that there are at least two factions within the wild country, the Resistance and the Scavangers. We also learn of the DFA (Deliria-Free America), a new extremist faction within the city. DFA’s moto is “CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS. SECURITY IS IN THE DETAILS. HAPPINESS IS IN THE METHOD.”(p.105)

Julian has had brain cancer and has already had several operations. He is now the poster child for the DFA, exhibiting that everyone should receive the Cure at an earlier age regardless of the risks. It is highly likely that he will die from having the Cure and his father wants to set the example, even if it means sacrificing his son. I liked seeing the growth in Julian as he came to accept that Lena was an invalid from the Wild.

Lena is no longer questioning authority like she did in Delirium, and her perspective has flipped completely around now seeing the city as “zombieland”. As Lena builds a relationship with Julius it feels too similar to the situation with Alex, and as you could guess is a set up for a love triangle. As a complaint, I’m offended that once again Lena has her shirt off with the boy ogling her, and she is okay with the situation. Is this realistic? I hope not. I was really glad to see that Lena takes a more active role in her own life, choosing to live, choosing to help Julian and being willing to leave the familiar if she felt like it was the right thing to do.

I also liked Raven, that she was tough on the exterior, but we discover it is just a way to mask the pain of everything she has lived through. How many in pain are just like her? Our natural inclination is to cheer for those that thumb their nose at society and seek freedom. Through Raven’s character we get a glimpse of the cost for those who live free. Freedom is not cheap.

I didn’t originally like how the author was flipping back and forth from then and now, but as the two times became a reflection of each other I thought it added depth.  I liked Delirium more, because everything was fresh, but Pandemonium was certainly not bland.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4 1:2 star

– the Mother


About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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