‘The most dangerous sicknesses are those that make us believe we are well.’ – Delirium
I warn you now: this post will be spoiler-heavy. It’s difficult to review a book without giving things away, and it’s even more difficult to talk about sequels without spoiling. If you’ve read the books, please do read the review and let me know your thoughts on the series. If you’re in the middle of the trilogy, look away now. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. Then come back and let me know if you agree.
I picked up Delirium because I had read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and enjoyed the concept – a girl has to repeat the same day over and over again in order to see how her actions affect everything else. Reading the back of Delirium, I thought it was a similarly interesting idea: the book takes place in a dystopian future where love is a disease. People are subsequently ‘cured’ of the ‘disease’ on their eighteenth birthdays, to prevent them ever feeling love.
Our protagonist is Lena, and she’s seventeen years old. She’s looking forward to the cure as a means to rid herself of the heartache – although she would never admit to having a symptom of the disease – that she has felt since her mother ‘committed suicide’ when Lena was a little girl.
But, of course, she’s going to fall in love.
Alex is an Invalid. The existence of the Invalids and the Wilds (the country outside city boundaries where people fled to escape the cure) is unacknowledged by the government. As a result, when Lena realises what he is, she’s a tiny bit shocked/terrified/betrayed. Yet she falls in love with him, realises what the cure will mean, and the pair decide to escape to the Wilds together.
‘You can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes.’ – Requiem
I’m going to be honest here: I wasn’t that caught up in the Lena/Alex romance. The far more interesting relationship as far as I’m concerned is the friendship between Lena and Hana. All feelings of love are eliminated by the cure, and so friendships, if they exist afterwards, are different too. You see the pair of them worrying how things will change.
It’s interesting to see how Hana begins as the more rebellious of the two, with Lena more shy and retiring, only for Hana to accept that the safe, sure life of a cured is perhaps what she’s after. It’s scary that you almost understand why she would feel that way – until you remember that she’s essentially going to get part of her brain removed to prevent her from feeling natural emotions. Nasty.
I was enjoying Delirium until we got to the last few chapters – that’s when it became brilliant. The pace picks up, the action starts and the end was a shocker.
‘Stupid, stupid – to be so careless with our time, to believe we had so much of it left.’ – Delirium
That brings us onto Pandemonium. I reckon this is the best book of the trilogy. It pains me to draw a Twilight comparison here – and don’t be put off, this series is a thousand times better – but it reminded me of the pattern of that series. The main love interest is gone, so they have to throw in another. Only this time, the guy’s a contender. Julian Fineman is the son of Thomas Fineman, head of the Deliria-Free America movement – exactly the opposite of what Lena, now an Invalid, stands for.
Why do they need such a movement in a love-free country? Well, the Invalids and the sympathisers (those for whom the cure might not have been quite so effective…) have infiltrated the city, in obvious ways with protests and explosions, and subtly, living among the cureds to eventually carry out their master plan.
‘Love: it will kill you and save you, both.’ – Delirium
And this is what comes to a head in the final novel of the trilogy, Requiem. Any Invalids who were content to carry on living in the Wilds no longer have the option. They have embarrassed the government by merely existing, never mind blowing holes in the city walls, and so they are sought out. The choice is to fight or be killed.
This is where things got disappointing. The pace of the third novel is alright, switching chapters between Lena and Hana’s viewpoints. Since I had found their friendship really sweet in the first novel, I was pleased to see Hana’s cure wasn’t entirely successful. And it’s a good thing that I was interested by this part of the trilogy, because I doubt any Lena/Alex or Lena/Julian shippers got anything out of book three. The Hana/Lena situation isn’t resolved, but neither is anything else. The ending is so open-ended that you might think there was another book coming. Lauren Oliver did comment that she might return to it, and that’s all very well, but you have to finish your original trilogy first! And Requiem was a big build-up to the beginning of a battle that had its moments (Raven), yet never delivered. And that’s where I have to draw the second comparison with Twilight, although it wasn’t even close to being that bad.
It’s a shame to end on a note like that, because I really did enjoy the first two books of the series. I love the concept, and the pace from the second half of book one until the beginning of book three was brilliant. It’s just a shame that the story was left… unfinished.
‘There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next.’ – Pandemonium
That was a long post – I apologise! And I’ve only managed to cover certain aspects of the trilogy. There is so much we could discuss, like Lena’s mother, but at the moment the ending is still the big talking point for me. Has anyone read this series? Which was your favourite of the three books? And what did you think of the ending?