Plot Summary: Lena lives in a world where love has been identified as a disease- amor deliria nervosa- and everyone is required to be “cured” around the time of their eighteenth birthday. Since losing her mother to the disease, Lena has looked forward to the day of her cure for most of her life. She’s perfectly content living in the safe, government-controlled society that exists within the borders of the United States, and happy to spend her days finishing up high school, preparing for the examination which will match her with her husband, and running with her best friend Hana. Then she meets Alex, an Invalid- a member of the group of humans living outside the borders and uncured of the disease of deliria. As Lena’s eyes are opened to the equally forbidden worlds of love and truth, everything she believes she knows about her life is brought into question.
Internets? We need to have a talk. HOW could you have been aware of the existence of this book, and not bashed me over the head with it? Seriously, did I bore you so much with all the wedding and honeymoon talk that you didn’t feel it was in my best interest to say “Psst, Brooke… there’s this book by Lauren Oliver… get it NOW”?
In the sphere of Young Adult Lit, Lauren Oliver has knocked it out of the park with this powerful novel. The implications of a society detached from love and emotion are great and terrible, and you know it’s only a matter of time before Lena’s eyes are opened to this. She has a very good reason for her fear of emotion- for her entire life, she’s been an outcast because her mother refused to give up the capacity to love. Like most teenagers, all she desires is to be “normal,” regardless of the cost. It’s only when she meets Alex (*le swoon*) that she begins to question whether her mother was wrong at all… or if the problem lies the emotional detachment that her society has achieved.
One of the more remarkable parts of this book is how fully Oliver has developed her society. Each chapter begins with snippets of “literature” from the approved tracts- including bible verses, “inflammatory, forbidden” quotes (one of which is the state motto of New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”), and children’s nursery rhymes. These additions really immerse the reader in the mindset of the society, as well as creating more sympathy for the extent with which the characters have been brainwashed.
I very much enjoyed watching the connection develop between Lena and Alex, and how that connection affected them both as characters. I couldn’t help but compare them to some of the other “big” YA Lit couples right now, and their feelings for each other seemed much more natural than, say, Edward and Bella. In addition, Oliver has wonderfully captured the physical and emotional rush of new love- the headiness and utter distraction of it all. Yes, my copy of “Pandemonium” is on the way now!