What if love were a disease? A deadly disease?
Magdalena Ella Haloway (Lena) will turn 18 on September 3. On that day she will have "the procedure" to cure her from the disease of "falling in love" or as it is known, "amor deliria nervosa". It's been sixty-four years since love was officially declared a disease and since that time everyone gets the procedure done in Portland to cure them.
Lena Haloway lives with her Aunt Carol and her younger cousins Jenny and Grace. Lena's mother had the procedure done three times, all unsuccessful in curing her disease. Just before her scheduled 4th procedure, her mother committed suicide by stepping of a cliff. Her father is dead and her older sister Rachel, now cured is married and lives away from home.
Delirium begins 95 days before Lena is scheduled to have her cure. She can't wait because the cure will make her life uncomplicated and protect her from the disease of love. It will also mean an end to the shame and humiliation of her mother's incurable disease. For Lena, it is "the chance to be reborn: newer, fresher, better. Healed and whole and perfect again...."
"I don't like to think that I'm still walking around with the disease running through my blood. Sometimes I swear I can feel it writhing in my veins like something spoiled, like sour milk. It makes me feel dirty. It reminds me of children throwing tantrums. It reminds me of resistance, of diseased girls dragging their nails on the pavement, tearing out their hair, their mouths dripping it."
Before her cure she must attend her evaluation to get ranked and assigned a marriage partner. However, Lena's evaluation is disrupted by a protest organized by the Invalids who unleash a herd of cows into the labs where the evaluations are held. It is during this disruption that Lena first sees Alex watching and laughing from an observation deck. Lena is immediately attracted to Alex.
Hana Tate is Lena's best friend. Unlike Lena, Hana is not so eager to be cured. She tells Lena that she is sick of all the rules and walls. She wants to make her own choices in life and not have to do what others tell her to do. As Hana begins to rebel, Lena finds herself drawn to follow her. In the first instance of rebellion, both Hana and Lena who like to run take a forbidden route that leads them down to the labs where the evaluations are held. It is here that Lena again meets Alex who works at the labs as a security guard.
Hana discovers that there are many people, not just Invalids, who don't believe in the cure and who post rebel music, thoughts and comments online. She invites Lena to a music concert out at a deserted farm where Lena again meets Alex. Eventually she begins to secretly see Alex, meeting him on the beach near her home. At first Lena is intensely conflicted about going to music concerts and also about meeting Alex. She is unnerved by Alex's free and open way of living and expressing emotion, his being totally unafraid. But as Lena learns more about Alex she comes to understand that Alex really cares for her.
Alex opens Lena's eyes to the truth of the society she is living in. The people of Portland are being lied to and controlled in ways they cannot imagine. Alex tells her that "Everyone is asleep. They've been asleep for years. You seemed....awake." When he asks her what she is afraid of Lena tells him, "You have to understand. I just want to be happy....I just want to be normal, like everybody else."
In their own world, Lena experiences the stirrings and liberation of a first love - a forbidden love, which if discovered, could lead to her early cure as well as punishment and humiliation for her and her family. Complicating this is that her match is someone she doesn't love and whom she knows she could never love. He isn't Alex. Lena must decide; does she get the procedure and marry someone she will never love or does she make a decision that will change her life forever?
This book was a fantastic read - breathtaking, poignant and sad, rushing to a thrilling but unresolved ending. A perfect setup for the second book in this trilogy. Lauren Oliver has definitely created a uniquely disturbing world in which adults are treated to prevent them from ever experiencing deep feelings of love for anyone or anything.
Although Delirium is very much plot-driven, Lauren Oliver takes the time and care to detail the characters of Alex and Lena. Lena is a girl who wants more than anything to be secure, to be safe, since all she's known her entire life is that she comes from a mother who was incurable."After the procedure I will be happy and safe forever."
The second book in this trilogy is slated to be titled Pandemonium. Hopefully more will be revealed about the Wilds, the Invalids and their attempts to subvert the controlled society of the cities. There are other things I hope to learn about too, but discussing them here would spoil the book! Enjoy this fantastic novel!
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
New York: HarperCollins Publishers