I also like love stories. I would like to think I am more academic than that, but the truth is that a good love story is, in my opinion, the best of all stories. The trouble is that they're so rare. Good ones, I mean. Delirium is a novel unabashedly about love, and the absence of love, and the consequences of that absence, and what it looks like to find love in a setting otherwise literally devoid of it. And not just romantic love, but the love of a mother for her daughter, the love between sisters and friends... all of it.
Lena is a girl who has waited eagerly for the procedure for years, the procedure everyone gets at the age of eighteen that will take away her ability to feel love. She has been looking forward to this because the absence of love will also mean the absence of fear and the absence of pain. She has been looking forward to this because the one thing she wants more than anything is to finally be just like everyone else.
What she does not expect is that love will find her before her eighteenth birthday. That she might meet the one person who can show her how ugly, bereft, and oppressive the world she lives in truly is. When she does meet him, the walls she's built around her heart are quickly pulled down, and the question of losing her love for the sake of fitting in becomes absurd. The consequences, however, will mean the end of all she's known. She is willing to take the risk, because she loves. But she may not survive.*
Some of the wonderful things about this book: Lauren Oliver has taken a rather extreme plot line and turned it into something plausible, readable, and natural. Nothing about Lena's world seems unlikely. Every outlandish element of this loveless society has its root in something familiar - whether it be our natural fears, our mobbish tendencies, or our insecurities. And the characters are believable, too. Nothing is unreal. It's also a storyline I would have liked to have written, which is to say that it's a world I would like to sit in longer, and these are characters I want to know better.
Having said that, I did not at first like Lena much. I did not buy her eagerness for the procedure - and not because the procedure seems so obviously horrible to anyone outside the system. It didn't seem believable because of her character and her history. Oddly enough, as she gradually changed her mind about the procedure, gradually came to realize that the society she had so long supported with all her heart and mind was at its roots corrupt and dehumanizing, I started to believe where she'd come from.
In the same on-the-fence sort of way, I loved Lauren Oliver's writing, her very human descriptions, the way she never hesitated to sit in a single, precious observation for as long as it was necessary. I also found myself skimming almost full pages of description that were just a bit more florid or tangential than the present moment of the story called for. In other words, it was occasionally a bit wordy.
But it was also beautiful, and personable, and fearful all at the same time. I have high hopes for the next book. And I hope very much that the third will follow fast behind.
*Of course she will survive. Who are we kidding.