Sometimes there is one scene in a book that makes it unforgettable. The cliffhanger ending of Lauren Oliver's Delirium is gut-wrenching. If utter anguish can be seared into a page and transferred to a reader's heart upon contact - this book does it. You get caught up in the young love story of Lena and Alex. You want them to escape a society that views the surgical removal of love as a mandatory procedure. You root for two kids to overcome the unnatural stigma attached to the most primal of emotions. The heart-pounding drama culminates at a border crossing showdown with the authorities as Alex sacrifices himself in order to give Lena the chance to truly live. But what kind of life will she have without her beloved by her side?
Written as an on-going series, the ultimate fate of the separated couple is yet to be determined. However, Oliver's ability to wrap her characters around the heartstrings of her readers creates a profound, sentimental bond. The sequel, Pandemonium (a March 2012 release), can't come soon enough. Her prowess in illuminating such a depth of feeling is remarkable. It is a connection forged by the rarest of authors. When this pinnacle is attained, it is a well-cherished indulgence for the avid reader. Plot can be intricate, style can be flawless, dialogue can be witty - but ultimately we embrace the books that make us feel something.
Many purists categorize the young adult genre as a lesser form of literature, while many young adult fans feel the dystopian theme is played out. While Delirium combines both of these elements, it rises above these preconceptions. It is strong enough to stand on its own. It doesn't need to be included in the post-apocalyptic hype in order to make a name for itself, and it is well-written enough to withstand analysis from critics across the board. Oliver's strength lies in nailing the voice of her teenage protagonists. Yet this trait should not pigeon-hole her writing into a particular category with a defined audience. It is the essential element that infuses her own special brand of magic into the literary realm.
The story, itself, has moments of profound imagery. Walking through an abandoned forest completely devoid of man-made illumination except for the buried flashlights hidden by fellow exiles under a marked tree. Fleeing a police raid while getting pushed and jostled as illegal music blares in the background. Running through the town square with your only goal being to slap the weathered hand of a well-worn statue. The conflicting notions of exhilaration vs. despair, impregnability vs. fear and fulfillment vs. longing are beautifully depicted through the hopeful eyes of adolescents trying to overcome the imposed violence of a closed society. Their love isn't a mindless delirium, it is their only chance at salvation from an unbearable situation.
Overall, the emotional build-up of the final scene is what great books are made of.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver is available for $17.99 at Amazon.com and at LaurenOliverBooks.com.
Thank you to Sheila for recommending this book. Follow her fantastic book blog and Twitter posts.
Review copy provided by Valley Community Library.