Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Pandemonium

Originally published on May 3, 2012.

I finished Lauren Oliver's Pandemonium last weekend. It's the sequel to her Delirium, which was the first book I read this year. The books are set in a dystopian world where all citizens are "cured" of amor delirium nervosa, aka love, at age 18. In Delirium, Lena's lifelong view of the world is completely shaken, first by her friend Hana, who introduces her to illicit parties and music where boys and girls actually interact with each other. Then Lena meets Alex, an Invalid who has never been cured, and becomes infected with the deliria herself. In the book's thrilling conclusion, Alex helps Lena escape from her society, over an electrocuted fence into the Wilds, where the Invalids live free.

Pandemonium picks up where Delirium left off, with Lena alone and injured in the Wilds, mourning the loss of Alex. It then follows her journey from slow recovery to joining the Resistance. Once again, everything that Lena thinks she understands about the world is challenged, and she is left to search within herself to decide what kind of person she wants to be.

This book also introduces 18-year-old Julian Fineman, the son of president of the DFA (Deliria-Free Association). Julian is about to undergo the procedure to be "cured," but due to a history of brain hemorhages, there's a good chance that the procedure will kill him. Yet what other choice does he have? He lives in "a world where children crack their heads on stone fireplaces and nearly gnaw off their tongues and the parents are concerned. Not heartbroken, frantic, desperate. Concerned, as they are when you fail mathematics, as they are when they are late to pay their taxes." (page 55)

We also meet Raven, Tack, Blue, Hunter, and other Invalids, struggling to survive in the Wilds. And then there are the Scavengers, who are also uncured but have barely managed to retain their humanity.

I absolutely loved this story, as I have loved both of Lauren Oliver's other books (Delirium and Before I Fall). My only complaint is that it took me a while to get into the story, based on the setup of the narration. The chapters alternate between "Then" (when Lena first escaped to the Wilds) and "Now" (6 months later, when she begins her work as a member of the Resistance). I'm usually a fan of the flashback technique, but with the two storylines being so close to each other chronologically, I think it would have made a lot more sense to just tell it in order. I liked the "Now" chapters much better than the "Then," so I got impatient with the story every other chapter.

The ending held two big surprises (one of which I saw coming, and the other of which I did not) which definitely set the stage for the third book in the trilogy, Requiem, which will be published in February 2013. How will I wait?? For starters, I'm hoping to read Hana, which is a novella that tells the story of Lena's best friend. (Unfortunately, it's only available in ebook format, and I don't have an eReader, so I'm still trying to puzzle that one out.)

I've become a big fan of Lauren Oliver this year, as I have loved everything that I've read by her. Her books are definitely aimed to the female audience (unlike a lot of other dystopian fiction, which can be enjoyed equally by both sexes), but I highly recommend her!

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