If you are looking for the best thing since sliced bread, try making yourself a grilled cheese sandwich. Or if you don’t do dairy, perhaps a hummus pita bread hybrid. But, you know, don’t count on Delirium. That’s not to say it’s drivel or that it won’t be passionately loved by someone out there. It will. Probably several someones, actually. But it’s just not, you know, whipped cream in a can. Which is pretty much one of the best inventions ever, for obvious reasons.
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one 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 Holway 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.
To succeed with me, a dystopian (or any genre, really) novel must have a couple of key elements: a character or two that I absolutely fall in love with, a certain level of trust in/for the world they live in, and a tense or mysterious unveiling of events. I can give or take one element if you hand me beautiful writing on a platter. But you must want an example! Here, I have one all ready: The Knife of Never Letting Go.
Todd (main character in aforementioned novel) is young, but he’s already been through a lot. For most of the book he is confused, but he’s 100% about doing the right thing. Or what he thinks is the right thing. And when he gets it wrong, his guilt is palpable. You literally HAVE to feel for him. I didn’t understand his whole society/world at first, but the gradual reveal was both sinister and awesome. I never once ‘popped out’ of the story and told myself it was unrealistic. And as for the plot: nonstop action, danger, tension. No space for doubt or disbelief. Now, go read that book!
Delirium disappointed me on all three counts. 1) I never invested in any one character. Although all of them have some redeeming qualities, I didn’t see enough change, growth, or any really deep human emotions to cause me to root for someone. I saw some ugliness, I saw awful memories, and I saw bad friendship. I did not find a connection with anyone because of those. The most interesting characters (to me) were the ones not present: Lena’s mother and sister. The ones with the most face time didn’t exactly change my world.
2) This dystopian-thing. I may just be a born skeptic, but I didn’t buy it. There were a couple of creepy people dedicated to the cause and keeping order. Not so much actual violence. But the main problem: even though love is a powerful emotion, it is not the ONLY emotion. And the world that Oliver painted was definitely grayscale without love. I am not convinced that society would have worked the way it was described given the parameters the author laid out. I found myself putting the book down to ponder what would have made it more believable, and to analyze which elements rang false.
And finally, 3) the plot. It’s a slow starter, but that in and of itself isn’t always a bad thing. I will admit to reading Delirium compulsively up until page 120, about which time I realized that nothing spectacular was going to jump out and grab me. It’s not that nothing happens. It’s just that I knew what was going to happen. I felt let down.
Now, lest you get all up in my face and say that this is/was/will be your favorite book ever, and I’m a horrible person for hating it, let’s review. I may be a horrible person. But I did not say that I hated the book. Just that it disappointed me. And every reason I used to substantiate that claim was an opinion and personal experience thing. This book can work for you, you can love it, and we can still be friends. I’m just not joining the fan club.
My question coming out of this: can you be spoiled for dystopian novels? Because this one read like Uglies to me. Uglies for girls who wouldn’t usually touch dystopian lit. I begin to wonder if I’ve read so much end-of-the-world goodness that I won’t find anything new under the sun. If that’s the case, I’m very sad.
Also sad? This snippet of text:
“He left me a note. He left me a note. For me. The idea – the fact of it, the fact that he even noticed and thought about me for more than one second – is huge and overwhelming, makes my legs go tingly and my hands feel numb.” -page 142 (ARC, subject to change)
Let’s hope it gets cut from the final version. That’s all. Really.
Are you still looking forward to Delirium?