What if love were a disease...?
By now, we all know that I'm a bit of a fangirl when it comes to dystopian fiction. Something about the end of the world as we know it appeals to me! I'm one of those weirdos who has a plan for when the Zombie Apocalypse hits us, or when Captain Trips comes a-trip-trip-tripping to our doorsteps. Don't get me wrong, I don't have an underground bunker ... yet.
*Ponders how to go about getting an underground bunker...*
Anywho! My love of dystopia met with my love of good, old-fashioned romance in Lauren Oliver's Delirium, lent to me by the lovely Emma of Book Angel's Booktopia. The premise of this text is that love has been identified as a disease, and everyone undergoes "The Cure" for the "deliria nervosa" on their eighteenth birthday. Lena, the female protagonist from whose point of view the narrative is told, is seventeen. And wouldn't you know it? Just ninety-five days away from getting her cure, Lena falls in love.
I absolutely love the idea of love as a disease because I think we've all been there, haven't we? We've all had someone get under our skin and fester there feverishly like some kind of viral invader. We've all felt breathless, got a case of clammy hands and cotton-mouth. We've all had trouble sleeping, felt the lethargy, had trouble eating or focusing all because of that crazy li'l thing called love. So love as a disease? Yeah, I can buy that.
What bothered me about the book (and it's a teeny niggle because overall I liked it) was the lack of real control that the society really had over its subjects. It uses lies and fear as any Big Brother should, but there was only minor evidence that they were anything more than just a menacing bogeyman used to keep the kids in line. I found that Lena and Alex (the boy she falls in love with) got away with far too much in a society which had supposedly battened down the hatches in order to guard against the big bad wolf which is love.
Those of you who read my review of Oliver's first novel, Before I Fall, (read it here) will know that I had a problem with the protagonist of that book. Well, the same goes for Lena in Delirium. Once again I began the book despising the voice of the story. She was weak, frightened, controlled and kind of a pain in the ass! But Oliver makes you sympathise with Lena, just as she made you warm to Sam in Before I Fall. If the personal, emotional journey that characters go on is the most important part of a tale, then Oliver is damned good at spinning a yarn. In both of her books now, the character you begin the book hating, grows up, changes and learns from the conflicts thrown at them. You may not grow to love them, but you certainly grow to admire them, to sympathise with them and to cheer them on. And I like that. It's far more realistic than the overly-admirable characters of too many YA books.
Overall, Delirium is a book which justifies the current trend for dystopian fiction. It is the first part of a trilogy and. as such, ends on a painful cliffhanger which left me feeling desperate for the next installment.
I thoroughly recommend this read. It is gripping and absolutely beautifully written. Oliver's writing is almost breathtaking at times and the sophistication of her prose says a lot for how much she respects her young audience.
Now to sit back, chew unattractively on my fingernails and wait for book two...