Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Title:  Delirium
Author:  Lauren Oliver
Series:  Delirium #1
Publisher:  HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date:  February 1, 2011
Pages:  441
Format/Source:  Hardback/Borrowed from Library

Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Science Fiction, Dystopian

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (From Goodreads)

Long Overdue…

I remember seeing this book on the shelves when it first came out early last year and I knew I had to read it.  But for some reason, I never got around to it.  So I was really excited when it was chosen as the May selection for my book club.  And, since I’m apparently overdue for most things, this review is also behind!

Cleverly Written…

I really love dystopians, but with the overabundance of them lately, I really feel like I really need one to have some special kind of hook to stand out from the crowd.  I’m not sure if the plot of Delirium really has that unique aspect, since there were several things that were very similar to other dystopians I’ve read, but I think the writing was what truly shined.  Lauren Oliver is not only a great writer who can turn a simple sentence into a beautiful and jarring image, but she continually amazed me with the clever subtlety of her phrasing.  Each chapter starts off with an epigram, and I found these to be extremely intriguing.  They were often quotes from “The Book of Shhh,” a kind of handbook or Bible for this future society, and they often seemed like not only a way to describe the oppressive nature of that society, but also a sort of commentary on our own society today.

The rest of the book has some really beautifully phrased sentences.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“As soon as I look up, his eyes click onto my face.  The breath whooshes out of my body and everything freezes for a second, as though I’m looking at him through my camera lens, zoomed in all the way, the world pausing for that tiny span of time between the opening and closing of the shutter.”

“The bay is flat and silver, the coast like a giant belt cinched around it, keeping it in place.”

“Maybe this is the secret to talking to boys – maybe you just have to be angry all the time.”

“The bay edges farther from us, and as always I have the same fantasy I did as a child:  that maybe it won’t come back, maybe the whole ocean will disappear forever, drawn back across the surface of the earth like lips retracting over teeth, revealing the cool, white hardness underneath, the bleached bone.”

“Love:  It will kill you and save you, both.”

I normally am kind of a stickler for similes because they are really hard to do well, but I think Oliver has them down pat!

Complexity on Multiple Levels…

I love when characters are extremely complex, when you don’t know who to trust or you feel like you know a character completely and then you learn something about their past and it adds so much more to the character and you end up feeling a lot differently about them.  I think Oliver has created these kinds of characters, and she’s done it well, but she’s even gone and taken this complexity to a whole other level.  For example, in those epigrams I mentioned earlier, a lot of times they include descriptions and warnings of the stages of “amor deliria nervosa” (the disease of love that is illegal and fatal in this story).  These warnings are just so clever, I think, because they list actual things you feel and experience when you’re in love, but since it’s propaganda, it also includes horrible “symptoms” to keep the people believing that love is a deadly disease.  But these horrible symptoms actually end up happening in Lena’s world, not simply because someone is in love, but because they’ve been indoctrinated to think it’s wrong, that it’s a disease, and that it’s not the natural order of things.  These symptoms, then, have become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy because of the society.  I just think that’s incredibly clever.

I also think that it’s smart how, even though Lena and Alex have an insta-love relationship, it makes sense in this world because A) she’s a teenager and it’s her first love and it is the first time she’s had any of these feelings and B) since love is considered a disease in this society, she has a built-in, ready-made conflict with these feelings.  Oliver continues to amaze me with her complexity and I finished this book over a month ago.

My rating for Delirium by Lauren Oliver:

Actually 4 1/2 stars.  The plot was solid, the characters were complex and interesting, and the writing and subtext far exceeded my expectations.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Pandemonium.
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ HarperTeen
You may also enjoy:  UgliesDivergent 

Disclaimer:  I borrowed a copy of this book from my library, and although it was a pick for my book club, I was in no way compensated for this review.


  1. fakesteph

    June 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

    This one was great! I really enjoyed it. And I'm so looking forward to Pandemonium. It just came in for me at the library. I've been on the waiting list for FOREVER. So excited.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm

      I just got Pandemonium from my library, too! I'm going to read it right after I finish Graceling, which should be in the next couple of days.

  2. The Little Pink Book Boutique

    June 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I have had this one on my e-reader for months and have yet to read it… I know, shame on me, lol, especially after reading your review – which rocked!! I will definitely try to get to this one much quicker now!

    Laura @ The Little Pink Book Boutique

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, this is a really great book and I hope you're able to get to it soon! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. pagesunbound

    June 26, 2012 at 1:29 am

    My review of this is actually scheduled for next Monday. I pretty much agree with you, though. I really like Oliver's writing and, in this case, the characters she created. But this book did not strike me as much of a dystopian, and I frankly am still wondering why they do not go for a more obvious emotion to eliminate like anger or sadness.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Oooh, I'll be interested to read your review! And you're right, why love? I guess maybe because for teens (especially teen girls), what's the emotion that they couldn't even think about living without? Love. ;)

  4. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    June 27, 2012 at 2:40 am

    I'm so glad you mentioned the epigrams — I have to say they were one of my favorite parts of the book. They were so much a part of the world building. I guess I'm a huge history nerd because I love the idea of fake historical documents.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      They were a really great addition, weren't they? They told so much about the world that the characters lived in, without Oliver resorting to a lot of exposition. I think fake historical documents are really cool, too! ;)

  5. Bittner

    June 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    You know, I don't think those instant relationships really bother me when i'm reading a book. I think they only start to bother me when I step back and start analyzing. And I think that is because in real life, when I like a boy, I fall hard and I fall fast. It doesn't happen often but I do do that.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      I do think those insta-love relationships happen a lot in life, especially with teenagers, so it makes sense that they happen a lot in teen books. But I just get tired of them and occasionally I'd like a book where they are friends first for a while, or they hate each other at first, or whatever. But I do think the insta-love totally worked here.

  6. Kimberly @ On the Wings of Books

    June 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I have to agree that Lauren Oliver's writing is absolutely fantastic. She could write the crappiest book ever and I would read it because it would sound pretty (not that I think she'll ever write a crappy book). I loved the idea of amor deliria nervosa and the Book of Shhh. I can't wait to see what you think of Pandemonium when you get to it!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      I just got Pandemonium from the library so I'm going to read that right after finishing Delirium, and then I'm going to do my YA Contemporary reading binge. I'm looking forward to Pandemonium!

  7. Kate@Midnight Book Girl

    July 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I read Delirium back when it was sort of the first wave of Dystopian books, and it blew me away. It'd be different reading it now that I've read so many. Pandemonium was good, which was a relief, and I definitely can't wait to get to the next book!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm

      I know, and the cover just came out for Requiem so I bet everyone is really ready for it! I just got Pandemonium from the library so I'll be reading it soon!

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