Lauren Oliver’s Delirium Series Review

Lauren Oliver

I have a book review format that is required for my 9th grade English students, and I thought that the completion of the Lauren Oliver series DeliriumPandemonium, and Requiem would be the perfect opportunity for me to test out my own assignment.  I have already reviewed Delirium, and you can find that here, as well as a breakdown of what exactly a dystopian novel is all about, besides being all the rage with teen readers.

DISCLAIMER:  If you’re interested, here is the assignment requirements for a secondary level book review.  It also comes with a sample review of the novel, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which was not written by me.  I found this book review format and sample on another website, but I’ve been using for so long that I have lost the source website.  In no way did I intend to use this document for profit, and if anyone does find the original website/source, I will be GLAD to give them credit.

Delirium Series Book Review

As I began to read the biography of Lauren Oliver, I knew that she would become my best friend in my head, which is not the same thing as having a literary crush on an author (read: John Green, I love you).  We have quite a bit in common as she is an avid reader, someone who appreciates a good run and pair of slippers afterwards, and was encouraged by the literature professor twosome that are her parents; talk about an amazing household for her and her sister to grow up in: a veritable culture Smörgåsbord.   Oliver drew inspiration for her novels from her hometown of Westchester, New York, and after publishing her first novel,  Before I Fall, the birth of a wonderous novel series began.  Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem follow the saga of a band of revolutionaries who are determined to right the oppressive wrongs of a government hellbent on regulating life for its citizens to the point of squelching the one thing that separates humans from animals: love.

To summarize three novels in a short paragraph would be an injustice against Lauren Oliver and her ability to create and sustain a spellbinding series.  Essentially, when the readers are introduced to the futuristic society and our protagonist, Lena Holoway, we are led into a world where love is viewed as a disease, and Romeo and Juliet is classified as a cautionary tale, and not classic literature.  Throughout the first novel, Lauren delivers snippets from the Book of Shh, the Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook, to allow the reader an deeper understanding of the culture of the novel.

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In only 95 days, Lena Holoway will be going through the procedure that “cures” the citizens of their disease; their vaccination of love.  So it goes, Lena falls in love, the one thing that truly is not allowed, and the remainder of the first novel, Delirium, Lena and Alex attempt to create an existence that goes against everything their world stands for, and follow their desires that pull them in the opposite direction.  And so it also goes, anything worth fighting for is just that: a fight, a struggle.  Continuing into Pandemonium and Requiem, Lena is forced into circumstances that call upon her last 5% of mental, emotional, and physical reserve.  This time she is pitted against more than just a situational standoff, but instead joins a national surge against the establishment that continues its pursuit of a love-free world.  In a parallel conflict, another decision must be made that tests the theories of the government.  Are the pangs of heartbreak and dilemmas of love worth  fighting for, worth dying for?  Tested to the point of breaking over and over again, Lena and her new cohorts must decide how much of themselves they are willing to put on the line for the greater good.

There are several themes throughout the Lauren Oliver series; Love no doubt is at the forefront.  In my opinion, this is not a love story, although there are definitely many examples of romance and heartbreak that appeal to many female readers.  However, I would venture to say that this series is more about individual rights, choosing your own destiny, and endurance and personal strength.  The shift that is created by transitioning from a “Lena Loves Alex” focus in Delirium to the Resistance Movement, delivers the message to the young adult audience that it’s not all about love, and being complete only if you have a hand to hold.  Is it nice?  You bettcha.  However, Lena and other strong female characters achieve more by digging down deep, seeing what their character is truly made of than when they are concerned about the pitter patter of their loins.  What they are fighting for is the right to love, yet Oliver makes the point that it’s about being strong enough to stand up for what you believe in.

These novels were fantastic for several reasons.  From a personal standpoint the writing style is absolutely engaging, and the character development made me feel as though I had come to actually know these characters.  I love the juxtaposition of the reserved, pleasing, and sheepish version of Lena in Delirium to her take-no-shit personality by the end of Pandemonium.  Maybe this was due to losing all of her safety nets, which included her absolute belief in the Society’s philosophies and methods, but perhaps it was what she was always capable of.  I also truly appreciated the strong female characters throughout the series.  Many times in mediocre YA literature (Twilight comes to mind immediately), the female protagonist is not complete unless she figures out how to get the guy, how to keep the guy, and how to take care of the guy.  She complies to his circumstances, but you don’t see a growth in character.  Lauren Oliver creates and supports her characters so that they become women that the reader can be proud of.  I also appreciate not being left out to dry in the second novel, Pandemonium, which happens so many times in the sophomore slump of trilogies.

I would, and have been, recommending this novel series to all of my female students.  I have also included Lauren Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall because of the characters, plot, and writing style.  I feel good about passing along these books to impressionable teenage girls.  Before reading these novels, one would need to understand the concept of dystopian novels, but overall there is not a prerequisite to be able to enjoy Lauren Oliver’s novels.

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