Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver [Delirium Week 3/25-39]

March 25, 2013 / 12 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

Delirium Week runs from March 25-29 here on Mostly YA Lit. Come by and watch me binge read/review the entire Lauren Oliver series in one week!

Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: February 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 441 pages
Source: Borrowed from Toronto Public Library
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

They say that the cure for Love will make me happy and safe forever.

And I’ve always believed them.

Until now.

Now everything has changed.

Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.


Guys, this is the most conflicted I’ve felt on a book in awhile. I wanted to love this book so much. And on the one hand, I loved the writing. Lauren Oliver has a very distinct style, full of beautiful description and passages that just ache for me to write them down. And Lena’s voice is interesting, because she’s writing to the reader, and sometimes it feels like she’s just narrating, and the voice sort of whips between them. The strangest thing about that is that it works.

My favourite parts of the book were when Lena and Alex first met, and she gets her first swoony feelings. That, for some reason, resonated with me. I think it was the description of his hair and eyes – like autumn or burning. I also liked some later bits when the characters are in nature, and the quotes from real and made-up literature that were scattered throughout the chapters. The ending was exciting, if a little expected.

What didn’t I like? Strangely, I found the characters and the plot to be a bit cliche. Lena was the quiet girl that you never expect to blow up the world, and frankly, I found that she was a little bit boring.  Alex was the cute guy who shows her how to become that girl who does blow up the world. And Hana, Lena’s best friend, is the sassy sidekick. Even Lena’s aunt and uncle, who she lives with, are archetypes of parents who have drunk the Kool-Aid and will continue to drink that Kool-Aid until a new one is put in its place.

Because of the archetypes, I never felt like I connected with Lena or Alex at all. The love scenes, which usually really get me, fell a bit flat for me. I didn’t feel like I believed in Lena and Alex’s relationship at all.

I’ve thought about this a lot, and two reasons come to mind that I didn’t like the relationship: 1) there was so little humour in it. Lena is not sassy, and Alex is not funny. There wasn’t much levity in their relationship, and as horrible as this is to say, I almost felt that it didn’t work for me because I’m not an overdramatic teenager. 2) I felt that Lena wasn’t a strong character on her own – it felt like Alex saved her or did the job of opening her worldview for her. None of Lena’s growth came from her own ideas of decisions. They came from loving a boy, not loving herself, which kind of turns me off.

I also found the plotting pretty obvious – maybe because I’ve read quite a few dystopians, so they all feel a bit similar? Anyway, I knew from the beginning that Lena was going to resist her evaluation, that she was going to fall in love, and that that love was going to make her stronger. I guessed quite a few of the reveals,  and I guess I found it was a pretty simple concept for a dystopian. The plot also moved a little slowly for my liking.

I can’t explain it. Everything that I usually care so much about in a book – the characters, the plot, the connectedness to all of this – none of that was there. But I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy reading Delirium. I feel like I had a disconnected, analytical feeling towards it, where I so appreciated the writing that it almost didn’t matter what was being said. I just liked reading the words, even if I didn’t connect to the characters.


Romance – this is a truly romantic book. Not for me, necessarily, but the romance was written in lush, gorgeous language. I wanted to love it so much – it seems like I’m the only one that didn’t get into it. I’m glad so many other people did.

Literature/literary devices – Lauren Oliver is obviously a fan of literature, and e.e. cummings, Shakespeare and other gorgeous writers get their due in this book. The voice, as I mentioned, was fascinating, dipping between full on narration, and often breaking the fourth wall to speak to the reader or some unknown audience.

The Final Word: 

Delirium’s characters and plot fell a bit flat for me, but the writing and voice shone through beautifully. This is a read for people who love lush romances with rich descriptive passages, who have a lot of time to savour words on a late summer evening.

I’ve heard that the second book in the series has a lot more action, so I’m hoping I’ll like it more than I liked Delirium. Look out for my review of Pandemonium on Thursday, and Requiem on Friday!

Are you a huge, giant fan of Delirium? What worked or didn’t work for you? Let me know in the comments – I’m so curious to hear your thoughts!

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12 responses to “Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver [Delirium Week 3/25-39]

  1. I love Lauren Oliver's writing <3

    I'm sorry the plot fell a bit flat for you 🙁 This is one of my absolute favourite series but I understand it doesn't work for everybody.

    • I can't explain it – I think you can hear the frustration in my review. I liked the writing so much, but for some reason, the characters and the plot just didn't resonate for me.

      I feel a bit like a jerk for saying the things I did. Ugh. I hate writing negative reviews.

  2. Hi Tiff!
    After reading your review, I have to agree that there were not a lot of surprises in Delirium. I could envision what was going to happen throughout the story as well. I also agree that what made this book so good for me was Lauren Oliver's writing. Coming off of a series that, to me, was so tiring to read, it was a pleasure to read such beautifully written story.
    I'm finished with Pandemonium and it is much the same. And I'm about halfway through Requiem. The writing remains top notch but it has not kept me awake till the wee hours of the night because I just have to finish it.
    I had hoped that this series would have made me want to barrel through. I rated both Delirium and Pandemonium a 5, mostly because it was so much better than my previous read. But also because the entire premise that Love is a disease was such a departure from the usual dystopian fare.

  3. I absolutely loved Lauren Oliver's writing style, her descriptions really took me into the story, and I love that you mention her description of Alex (so beautiful!) I'm sorry to hear that the plot fell flat for you though! I know this series isn't for everybody. Hopefully the series picks up for you! I will be back to see your other reviews!

  4. You said in your review that you didn't get it because you aren't an overdramatic teenager. Being 30 years old, I think I might end up feeling the same way about this one. That is honestly one of the main reasons that I haven't tried reading it yet even though I have read so many positive reviews for it. And I may think a little bit that the premise seems silly. But I will say that I do want to at least give the series a shot one day. With so many people that love it, you almost have to at least try it. And I have read a few reviews for the second book that said it was better than the first.

  5. I felt the same way. I checked this book out at my library 4 times before I finished it. I really wanted to like it because I have heard such good things about the series. I liked the last part of the book enough to read Pandemonium.

  6. I love novels that have excellent writing, but it is too bad when the plot elements end up being cliche. This series is on my to-read list, but I don't think I'll bump it to the top yet. Thanks for the review!

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