Lena has escaped over the fence of her home in Portland, Maine. She meant to escape with Alex, the one who first taught her about the Wilds outside of the only world she knows. The one who first showed her that even if love is a disease, the deliria is worth it. But he was wounded, left behind to the fire, the guns, to death. And so she has shut her heart off from her old life and any memories that might linger. After days of running, she is found half dead by Raven, an Invalid who has been leading a group of uncureds in the Wilds, moving from homestead to homestead just to survive.
Lena becomes one of them whether she wants to or not, and hardens, growing more and more like Raven and the other fierce survivors on the far side of the wall. They join the Resistance, and Lena finds herself faced with the daunting task of living among the cureds, pretending to be one of them, following the dictates of the Resistance without question. It is not the life she was looking for when she crossed to the other side, but it is the only one left to her. She crossed for love, but love has been lost.
The first third of this book is slow. Painfully slow, though that may have been my general exhaustion toward dystopia in general and series in particular. Then all of a sudden, just over a third of the way through, everything gets kicked up a notch and you're on the edge of your seat with curiosity and tension and a foreboding that tells you precisely what's going on even though you really, really don't want it to be true. This isn't remarkably descriptive, but let's just say there are explosions and sickness and fire and hidden codes and aliases and kidnapping and torture and secrets whispered in the dark. Lena hardens and then unhardens and then hardens again, and you feel for her the whole way through.
That doesn't change the fact that when I closed this book I made a half-hearted vow never to begin a series again before the entire thing has been released. It had only been a few months since I read Delirium, but I had still forgotten much. Most importantly, I'd forgotten the love I had for the characters, and that's something very hard to revive en media res. The slowness of the first part was probably due in large measure to the fact that I had forgotten to care. It is my fault, of course, but it certainly didn't help Lena much.