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Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson
Delirium  - Lauren Oliver 2.5 starsLena and Alex, if this is true love you’re selling – I’m afraid that I am just not buying it.And essentially, there lies the heart of Delirium: the human capacity to love, in a world where this particular emotion is viewed as a disease and is being clinically excised by the government. Our protagonists, an “uncured” and an “invalid” respectively, create the crux of the story when they commit the unthinkable, and “fall in love”. The issues that prevented me from wholly enjoying Delirium are twofold.First, as mentioned above: the love story. I have some issues with the way love is presented in this book. Of course, this is highly subjective and largely based on my personal thoughts and opinions – but the portrayal of love in Delirium threw cold water in the face of any potential I had to really dig this book. I found the relationship between Alex and Lena to be much too overwrought and overblown for me to really get behind it. Regardless of the genre I happen to be reading, what draws me to a relationship between characters is generally the thread of truth, or relatability, that runs through it. I like some swoon and sweeping gestures and touching declarations as much as the next person – but it still needs to feel real to me, born out of some genuine chemistry and depth. I didn’t find this in Delirium. I found the relationship to be fairly one-note and formulaic, relying on all too familiar “teen love” tropes. Did I believe they were infatuated with each other? Absolutely, based on the physical symptoms described at length in the book. In lust? Probably. In love? Not so much. This element of the story, basically the foundation on which the plot stands, felt hollow to me. I felt that I was expected to believe in their love, as if the book were telling me: “This is story about a world without love. Therefore, you will sympathise with the characters who fall in love. And now here is your obligatory reference to Romeo & Juliet." Um, I’m afraid not. I still need a reason to believe in their connection. As in, a reason beyond unleashing cattle in a government building and some surreptitious winking.Secondly: the premise. Honestly, the idea did appeal to me – it is an intriguing concept after all, creating a world where a whole section of the human spectrum of emotion is removed - but essentially, I felt that this world was built out of balsa wood. It had all the appearance of an interesting and complex system, but it doesn’t bear any substantial weight and turns into a pile of splinters under a little serious contemplation. Further, I simply didn’t feel that the premise was strong enough to carry 400 pages. At times, the story felt elongated beyond what it could realistically bear, filled out with pages of heady, descriptive prose. Which leads to me to what I did like about Delirium, or rather what I thought was the book’s strongest point, which is Oliver’s writing. While I did find sections drawn out, I do think that Oliver wields some considerable skill with her prose. It’s certainly not to all tastes (nothing is, right?), but I’m not averse to her poetic style, and there is a certain languid rhythm to the passages and the flow of words.I feel that there was potential here that largely went untapped. Had the characters been stronger, had their relationship been more developed and nuanced so that I cared about it more, had the setting induced the chilling panopticon-like vibe I was expecting (if this book is going to be labelled as dystopian, which is a subject for another day..) – I think I would have liked this book so much more. In the end, Delirium felt like a very pretty package, with some interesting ideas on the surface, but I was left feeling disappointed with the contents.