The story picks up where Delirium left off and alternates between "Now" and "Then". "Then" covers Lena's time in the Wilds and "Now" is the present which finds Lena working for the resistance and posing as regular citizen. In the Wilds is where her grief is the weightiest and most palpable. She not only grieves for Alex but for Hana and her old life, her old self. She knows she can no longer be the girl she once was or even the girl she'd hoped to be living free as an Invalid with Alex. She struggles to find a new sense of self with Raven, Tack and the others. While out one day with Raven, a girl whose not much older than Lena but who commands respect based on her own years spent in the Wilds, Lena describes it like this:
"Grief is like sinking, like being buried. I am in water the tawny color of kicked-up dirt. Every breath is full of choking. There is nothing to hold on to, no sides, no way to claw myself up." ~ Lena
She wants desperately to hold onto hope that Alex might be alive but she knows she's being foolish. She saw him standing there riddled with bullets and covered in blood as the police and regulators swarmed him. She knows they don't deal kindly with those caught trying to escape into the Wilds. She also knows she needs to let go of him.
When the story flips back to "Now", Lena is put in the position of keeping a watchful eye on Julian Fineman, son of Thomas Fineman, the man at the center of the DFA ("Deliria-Free America") movement. Julian is a regular at his father's DFA rallies, often speaking in support of his dad and his handsome face adorns posters all over the area. The task seems easy enough except Julian stands for everything Lena hates. When there's an attack by Savages and both he and Lena are held captive, she finds there's more to Julian than his public persona. He's not only easy on the eyes but he too has a painful past and he's harboring secrets, just like Lena.
If they want to survive, Lena and Julian will have to trust each other which won't be easy but fighting off the feelings that are growing between them will prove much harder. Once again, Lena will have to decide if the risk of love is worth taking as her feelings for Julian begin to blur with her memories of Alex. (There may or may not be kissing involved in said "survival plan".)
Lena also starts to notice that many in the resistance are allowing bitterness and anger to fuel their fight and the lines between purpose and vengeance are no longer clear directives. "Sometimes it is necessary that individuals are sacrificed for the health of the whole." has become the attitude of some she trusts and sends her reeling because it's the same stance the DFA takes. What's going on?! Are they on the same side now?!
She and Julian have been through the ringer, risking their lives, narrowly escaping death (several times I might add) and for what?! When Julian is threatened with execution, Lena has flashbacks to what happened to Alex and refuses to go through another experience like that. "Not again, not again, not again." She's in a race against the clock, only this time, instead of escaping over the fence into the Wilds, she must sneak back into the city.
When all is said and done and Lena thinks she might be able to take a breath, (the reader too) the world beneath her feet seems to crumble and spiral out of control, leaving her gasping for air. (and the reader begging for book 3!) *CLUTCHES CHEST*