Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The concept of Delirium, a young adult novel by Lauren Oliver, intrigued me. Love is a disease, literally. It's called amor deliria nervosa, and there's a cure. The catch: you can't get cured until your 18th birthday. So, Lena is waiting anxiously, expectantly for the day when she can put her family's tainted past behind her and be normal like everyone else over 18.

Lena has 95 days to go on runs with her beautiful friend Hana, to prepare for and pass her evaluations so that she can be matched to a husband, and to ignore that her favorite color is gray when the safe answer is blue. She has 95 days not to fall in love and not to see the truth behind a society of glazed eyes and mindless obedience.

Sounds like a cool premise, right? I hoped.

The problem is that this concept has been done before, and actually, it's been done well. Too well. For anyone who's read Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, Delirium feels like a cheap remake. It's too bad because the idea and the characters are interesting on their own. But as I read Delirium, I felt like I was reading an outline of Uglies. All the elements were there: girl wants to reach birthday to have life-altering surgery, girl has friend who's more daring and pushes her to rethink her views, girl meets guy, girl becomes braver than friend, girl tries to buck the system. The plot of Delirium closely matches that of Uglies, except that I found Uglies to be more believable and entertaining with higher stakes and more danger.

In Uglies, people are made beautiful when they turn 16, but the surgery they undergo also makes them blindly obedient and naive. In Delirium, the issue is not beauty but love. I find it much more likely that a society would idolize beauty rather than demonize love, especially looking at our society and the direction it's been going in the last half century. Societies are like pendulums, though, and I could be convinced of a futuristic society like that in Delirium. But I identified with Uglies more, and I think most teens would as well. The funny thing is, Uglies is more fantastical with more technological advances and science fiction than Delirium. But I still found the concept of Uglies to be more believable, and perhaps the extra flares of Uglies are what sets it apart from Delirium.

There is some language in the book but nothing else inappropriate. I was not at all happy to see the F-word, but it occurred on only one page and wasn't used lightheartedly. Still, this is young adult literature, and it didn't need to be there.

Three and a half stars for concept and plot. Two stars for it's-been-done...and-better.

This book will be released soon in February of 2011.

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