Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Requiem

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Description from Amazon.com:
This exciting finale to Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium trilogy is a riveting blend of nonstop action and forbidden romance in a dystopian United States.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed.  The nascent rebellion that was  underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds.  But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven.  Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids.  Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.

As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.  Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’s points of view.  They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

With lyrical writing, Lauren Oliver seamlessly interweaves the peril that Lena faces with the inner tumult she experiences after the reappearance of her first love, Alex, the boy she thought was dead.  Sophisticated and wide-ranging, Requiem brings the Delirium trilogy to a thrilling conclusion.
******

 I have waited anxiously for months to get my hands on Lauren Oliver’s Requiem.  I hate to break up the reading of a series, so I usually try to wait for an entire series to be published before I start reading it.  This means that all too often, I miss out on the excitement and hype of the hottest new releases, particularly those much-anticipated second books in a trilogy.  However, somehow I ended up breaking my own rule and got started on the Delirium series way back at its beginning, so it felt like I’d been waiting for Requiem for a really long time.  I actually intended to re-read Delirium and Pandemonium before picking up Requiem, but then I saw it sitting on the shelf of the teen section of my library (no wait!!) and just couldn’t resist snatching it up.

Unfortunately, I did find myself a little fuzzy on some of the finer points of the earlier books while reading Requiem—not enough to keep me from enjoying the book, but enough to keep me from catching every single well-done nuance.

Heading into Requiem, there were plenty of questions to be resolved for Lena and her friends.  What did Alex mean by his cryptic comment (“don’t believe her”) at the end of Pandemonium?  What would Alex’s reappearance mean for Lena and Julian’s budding relationship?  Would Julian be able to handle life in the Wilds, or would he want to return to the DFA?  Had Lena lost her once chance to reconnect with her mother?  What had become of Hana back in Portland—had she been cured?  And most importantly, when would the final and inevitable clash between the Invalids and the Regulators occur—and who would win?  Requiem addresses, but does not answer, all of these questions.  With some, readers are left to draw their own conclusions.

These days, dystopian trilogies seem to be cropping up everywhere.  What sets Requiem apart from many other books in the genre is the split narration between Lena and Hana.  I honestly felt that Hana’s voice was the stronger element of the two.  Thanks to her procedure, she is mostly emotionless, but she still has her memories of her old life, and every now and then, a faint memory of emotion works its way in.  It is this memory of emotion that leads to Hana’s attempt to discharge any lingering responsibility she might have toward Lena’s family.  Most of the time, though, Hana is powered by logic.  And it is logic, not emotion, that tells her something is very wrong with her fiancé, Fred Hargrove.  As Hana subtly begins to investigate her fiance’s secrets, she confirms what she has long suspected—that her society is not nearly as perfect, or as powerful, as it seems.

While trying to stay away from blatant spoilery, I must say that I really admire Lauren Oliver for the ending of this book.  While it left me feeling unsatisfied in many ways, it did so because of Oliver’s refusal to wrap things up with a neat little bow on them.  There were moments where I could see various conflicts heading toward neat, tidy endings, and then Oliver veered away from them.  So while there’s no true resolution to the story, it ends on a hopeful note—perhaps primed for a follow-up novel or series?

While the “are you on Team Alex or Team Julian?” dilemma seems pretty formulaic for young adult dystopian novels by now (okay, for young adult novels in general), the split narration between Lena and Hana and the openended finish kept Lauren Oliver’s Delirium from getting lost in the crowd.  A nice finish to a well-done trilogy.  While I still think that Before I Fall was the strongest of Oliver’s YA novels, I definitely think she’s an author to keep our eyes on—I’m hoping to enjoy many more books from her in the future.

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