Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

In the final installment of the Delirium series, Requiem recounts the fate of the Portland rebels and of several people within the fortified city of Portland, just before a critical confrontation between the resistance and those committed to developing a society devoid of love. The story is told in the alternating narratives of Lena who is traveling with the "Invalids" (those who are not yet cured of amor deliria nervosa) and her childhood friend, Hana Tate, who is living in Portland, Maine, which is controlled by the "cured".

Lena is with approximately two dozen uncureds, who have traveled north from New York city. This group includes Raven, Tack, Julian Fineman, Danie, Gordo, Pike and Alex. They meet up with Hunter, Bram and Lu just south of Poughkeepsie. Alex and Lena are no longer speaking, their relationship having deteriorated for reasons Lena doesn't quite understand. Meanwhile Julian has fallen in love with Lena who is not sure how she feels about him. Lena still loves Alex but he has changed. Alex was a prisoner in the Crypts, left to die, then tortured. Despite her pleas, Alex tells Lena that what they felt for each other before is gone.

After much discussion the group decides to travel to Waterbury "where there are rumors of a successful resistance movement and a large camp of Invalids flourishing in safety." However two things happen before the group reaches Waterbury. First, they take in a new girl named Coral who is exceptionally beautiful whom Alex seems to fall for and second, the group is ambushed by Regulators - troops who have now pushed into the Wilds looking for Invalids and killing them off. Barely escaping with their lives, and having lost all their survival gear, the group arrives at Waterbury and is stunned at what they see.

Meanwhile Hanna's narrative recounts her preparations as she gets ready to marry her pair, Fred Hargrove. Fred's father was killed in the Incident that saw the Crypts breached and many uncureds and rebels, including Alex and Lena's mother, escape into the Wilds. Fred is quickly installed as Mayor of Portland, a position he plans to use to exert an iron control over the people by denying them electricity if they do not conform.

Hana begins to feel some emotions despite being cured. She is confused about the cure which she initially believes has saved her. The cure was supposed to make everyone similar but Hana discovers that this is not necessarily the case, especially regarding her husband, Fred.
"Fred isn't Fred -- at least, he's not the Fred I thought he was. And I'm not the Hana I was supposed to be; I'm not the Hana anyone told me I would be after my cure."

Hana soon discovers that Fred has a very dark side. Fred threatens Hanna in a veiled manner that is accompanied by physical abuse. Referring to his first wife, Fred tells her that if she doesn't support him and if she asks too many questions there will be trouble. Hana also begins to experience guilt over her actions regarding Lena and Alex. So when she learns of the extreme poverty of Lena's cousin, Grace, Hana begins sneaking food to her family, at great personal risk.

As preparations for her wedding continue, Hanna tries to find out what has happened to Fred's first wife, a beautiful girl named Cassandra O'Donnell who disappeared three years earlier. Cassie and Fred were married for more than seven years. Since divorce is unheard of now, her disappearance is highly suspicious, yet no one seems to know what really happened. Hana discovers that Cassie who also went by her middle name, Melanea, is a prisoner in the Crypts. A surreptitious visit to the Crypts by Hanna confirms what she already suspects.

In Waterbury, Lena and her fellow rebels discover a teeming mass of Invalids, who are disorganized, disheveled and starving. Located just outside the city walls, the camp is run by mob rule. Lena, Raven, Alex,and Julian meet up with one woman, Pippa, who seems to have formed an organized camp within the mob. When the river adjacent to the camp is dammed, effectively cutting off the water supply to the camp, Pippa organizes a small attack on Waterbury with the intention of blowing the dam up. However, this fails miserably due to the fact that one of their group is an infiltrator who tells Lena that the camp will be wiped out in a few days when ten thousand soldiers arrive. Pippa helps Lena, Raven, Julian, Tack, Hunter and Bram to leave and tells them they will meet up later on.

The camp is attacked but some are saved and the two camps join together at Portland where they become part of the larger Resistance. At this point both Hanna and Lena's narratives effectively merge as they describe the same event from two different viewpoints. This event will now change both their lives once again, hopefully allowing both girls to make their own choices, to live their lives as they choose.

Oliver has written a suspenseful, interesting third novel for the Delirium trilogy. She gradually weaves her two storylines, that of Hanna and Lena together. This allows the two young women, on opposites side of the war, but with similar dreams and hopes, to finally confront each other. Hanna requires Lena's forgiveness for turning Lena and Alex into the authorities. But she is also given an second chance to do the right thing and she chooses it. Meanwhile, the means for Lena to get revenge is now possible, but she too chooses another path - that of giving her friend a chance to save herself.

I found Hanna's story  more interesting than Lena's. This is partly because Hanna is beginning to realize some truths about the world she lives in and the people around her. The cure doesn't make everyone the same or perfect and her life isn't going to be what she thought it would be. Oliver has Hanna gradually develop a creeping sense that she is about to marry a very cruel man who cares little about others. This realization is driven home to Hanna when she meets his first wife and even more so when she really notices the painting in his study. The picture titled The Myth of Bluebeard is a reference to the the French fairytale of Bluebeard. In the fairytale, a nobleman is suspected of having murdered his previous wives and the current wife tries to avoid the same fate. Although Hanna doesn't know the fairytale, since most literary works in her world have been altered, she understands the meaning of the painting all too well. She comes to the understanding that Fred is not what she thought he was.

Overall the ending to this novel, and therefore the series, was unsatisfying. It felt like Oliver was asked to produce a book within a 400 page limit and this made her race to the final chapters. There are plenty of loose ends which the reader is left to deal with. Unresolved is the fate of Hanna and Fred, Alex and Lena, and the fate of the cities which are now in full revolution. We learn that there is resistance in many other cities through America which lends an aspect of hope to the finale. It was a shockingly disappointing finish to what was truly a very, very good novel that had plenty of suspense, some romantic tension, and some great redemptive moments. Read it, but expect to be disappointed with the rushed ending.

Book Details:
Requiem by Lauren Oliver
New York: Harper Collins Childrens Books 2013
391 pp.

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