Despite having nearly everything going for it, Delirium rarely engaged me as a reader. And yet, I am going to rate this a strong 4 stars because I can see why this series has appealed to so many. Author Oliver has a unique ability to write about common people, giving them personality and life. For once, a story about love isn’t soppy or cheesy. And the reader really does want to root for the characters and see them together in the end.
Story: Lena lives in a part of America where emotions, specifically love, have been controlled through a surgical procedure. It was done to keep society peaceful and placid and stop the ‘delirium’ – the love ‘disease’. But when she meets Alex, a boy supposedly ‘cured’, everything changes. Suddenly, Lena doesn’t want to get the procedure done on her 18th birthday. But in this America, choice isn’t an option and she will lose all she feels for Alex forever if she goes in on her birthday.
Delirium is a slow burn story with most of the action near the end. It’s a girl-meets-boy story, a little Romeo and Juliet in a world that doesn’t allow romance. But the angst of forbidden love isn’t the story so much as Lena awakening from torpidity into emotion. Since the story is all first person POV, we see Lena’s change unfold organically through her interactions with Alex.
Side characters aren’t left bereft and given as much personality as our protagonists. From best friend Hana to Lena’s adopted family (her mother committed suicide due to the love ‘disease’), each person is distinct and doesn’t fall into the cardboard character cliche. All the same, Alex was a bit too good for my taste, lacking in nuance and enough quirks to distinguish him beyond idealized love interest.
So why did Delirium fail to engage me personally? I think it has to do with having read the Shatter Me series first. Both series deal with angsty emotion but I preferred the more full on emotion of Shatter Me rather than the slow burn of Delirium. It seems a shame to even compare the two books; honestly, as much as I loved Shatter me, it definitely was not as well written as Delirium. The strength of Delirium is Oliver’s writing and characters.
As with most YA dystopian, the premise is pretty bonkers and doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny (I felt the same way about Oliver’s Panic setting). But Delirium is all about the awakening of a normal girl and a sweet love story.
I listened to the Audible version of this story and the narrator was one of the best I’ve heard. She lives and breaths the story, not just reads it.