Monday, 1 April 2013

Review - 'Requiem' by Lauren Oliver (Delirium series)

I've just finished reading Requiem, the final book in the young adult series, Delirium, by Lauren Oliver. The main character, Lena, lives in a world where love is considered a disease—the deliria—the source of all unhappiness and negative emotions, including anger, pain, jealously and hate. Scientists have found a cure for love, and the controlling government seeks to eradicate the deliria by forcing all citizens to be cured at age 18. Despite looking forward to being 'cured', Lena does the unthinkable and falls in love before she can undergo the procedure, and then must deal with the dangers she faces.

  "this story is about the freedom to love—not just romantically, but across friendship and familial relationships..." 

Unlike some trilogies that start out strongly and then waver somewhat, Delirium is a series that gains pace and builds tension as it progresses. The storyline moves in unexpected ways, and there are unexpected cliff-hangers at the end of the first two books, Delirium and Pandemonium, that raise the stakes. Lena, Hana, Alex and Julian, as well as many of the supporting characters, are thoughtfully developed and engage the reader at an emotional level. This story is about the freedom to love—not just romantically, but across friendship and familial relationships, as well.  (The romantic relationships are subtly treated; heartfelt without venturing into detail.)   

Set against a controlling dystopian society, those who want to live freely are forced to fight against eradication. In this final novel, Requiem, Lauren Oliver adds the narrative voice of Lena's friend, Hana. Hana's contrasting perspective proves critical to the success of the series conclusion, allowing us to follow events both inside and outside the government's jurisdiction, and enabling the story to build steadily and convincingly to its ultimate ending. 

Oliver is a talented writer, able to describe elements of nature or the bleakness of the city in ways that create a sharp picture in the mind’s eye, without detracting from the momentum of the novel.  A disused parking structure takes on a new form when portrayed as a ‘massive cement honeycomb structure’, while my favourite image is the one Oliver gives to a landscape of night wilderness highlighted by a ‘slalom of trees’;  immediately I could picture the bare winter trees, staggered and stark in the moonlight.

The controlled nature of the walled and ‘protected’ cities, is contrasted with the untamed wilderness that while beautiful, is difficult to survive in; and here lies the crux of the message: the freedom to choose does not create a fairy-tale world of 'happily ever after'. The main characters are confronted with the painful dilemma of their choices, reinforcing one of the central themes of the series: the right to choose your path in life doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily make the right choicesor be happy all the time. Or as Hana puts it, ‘You know you can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes, right?’ Right.

Cereal Readers gives the 'Delirium' series five spoons. A well-paced and thought-provoking read that doesn't shy from the difficult issues of choice and love. 

1 comment:

  1. This book seems to speak not only to young adults, but older ones too. I was immediately drawn to the character Hanna's explanation, that experiencing unhappiness can help a person to more fully appreciate and understand happiness. As we get older, this point is often brought home, yet can escape our minds until we are prompted by a talented author to reflect on such matters. I'm looking forward to reading 'Delirium' myself and sharing it with my girls.

    As a mother of 2 girls I am really enjoying reading the books my girls are reading. Together we are exploring interesting ideas and new worlds! I’ve found many of our favourite books listed on Cereal Readers, and the site’s particularly useful for me, as it loads me up with ideas for books down the track and allows me to keep a few books ahead of my two prolific readers!