Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Harper Teen
Pages: 440
Received: ARC given to me by a reviewer
Peer pressure rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Author's Page
Amazon Page 

Goodreads Page


Lena is anxiously counting down the days until her scheduled procedure that will remove the threat of the illness deliria. Before the procedure, love drove people to madness and even death. Lena never questioned her world or the requirement to undergo the procedure. Until she meets Alex and everything she thought she knew is called into question.


I am writing this review from a secret underground bunker. Why? Because I , um, didn’t love this book. I’m sorry! Really, I’m just as disappointed as you are. I read this book back in early September before I had ever heard anything about it. I didn’t know it was part of a trilogy and I certainly didn’t know it was “The Next Big Book” that would sweep the YA world. But it was an ARC! One of my first and I really, really wanted to love it.

But I didn’t love it. I liked it. Most reviewers have mentioned Lauren Oliver’s beautiful writing, and it really is beautiful. She writes like seasoned pro.  I read her sentences and thought that here is a woman who was truly born to write.

But, as beautifully constructed the sentences may have been, they added up to a story that just didn’t do it for me. I personally gravitate more toward the faster-paced books. I like to be grabbed by a story immediately. Delirium is definitely not a fast-paced book. At over four hundred pages and only the introductory part of a projected trilogy, the pacing of this story is, perhaps expectedly, sloooow. I felt every one of those 400+ pages.

The entire story follows Lena as she very gradually comes to terms with the realities of her dystopian world. This is to be expected. It is the first book in a dystopian trilogy, so naturally the first book is the “awakening” part of the story. It may just be me, but I often find these books boring. I want to get to the action! I want to see the main character fight against the dystopian society. I don’t want to spend an entire book watching them hesitate back and forth between the-world-is-good/the-world-is-bad when I the reader already know the world is definitely bad (hey, it’s a dystopian!).

Especially when they do this over the course of 400+ pages. Despite the fact that the writing is beautiful to read, I felt like screaming at Lena to figure it out already. There wasn’t any question that Lena would eventually turn against her society (she has to; there would be nothing to write in the rest of the trilogy if she just went along with things), so it was especially frustrating to spend so much time reading about her indecision. I also had a hard time liking and connecting with Lena as a result of this.

While there were a few truly shocking and notable scenes (particularly the spectacular ending!), by the end of the book, we know very little that we didn’t already know from the jacket description. I just don’t think that should be the case in such a lengthy book. To me, that indicates that the book could have been shortened considerably, and I think I would have enjoyed this book more if that had been the case.

My other quibble is that as a dystopian, this one didn’t hold up for me. I’ve been around the block when it comes to dystopians, and unfortunately Delirium just didn’t have what it takes to meet my criteria for an impressive dystopian. What makes the great dystopians (1984, The Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Utopia, etc) so poignant is that they don’t just imagine a horrible society that is possible, but they connect it to what is happening right now. The propaganda, government surveillance, and silencing of dissent found in 1984 weren’t just terrifying because they could happen. They were terrifying because they were already happening and they were well within human nature to happen as he wrote.

1984 simply took what already was and expanded it by giving it new technological outlets and imagining how what is currently happening could evolve if given just a slight nudge and just a tiny bit more time. Those connections were drawn with startling clarity. The reader could see the progression exactly and that progression was not only clear, but also completely believable. You’re left with warnings of not only what to keep an eye out for in the future, but what you should be looking for going on around you right now. This is what makes a dystopian so scary and effective.

I found this feature lacking in Delirium. I didn’t feel like I really understood how the society went from where we are now to where things were in Lena’s world. No connections were really drawn to what is happening now, so I felt very disconnected from the world Oliver created. I also can’t imagine an entire society of people willingly undergoing brain surgery to become, effectively, lobotomized just so they no longer feel love. Why would someone do that? I wouldn’t do that. Would you do that?

I could understand something like the premise of the movie The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where people would willingly give up select painful memories, but to deny oneself the entire possibility and experience of love? Forever? It sounds like this was a government-speared progression, but I don’t understand why the government would want this. What are they gaining? Why did they go about gaining whatever it is they wanted in this manner?

I just have a very difficult time understanding why and how a society would choose to develop in that direction and Oliver’s explanations were not adequate enough for me in this regard. Giving the benefit of the doubt, this may be explained further in the second and third books as Lena discovers more about her world. This would be helpful, but for me it would be a little too late. It makes sense that she would discover more truths as time went on, but I would have benefited from more of a foundation earlier on so I could better envision the world.

Finally, I did not connect with the characters or the romance between Lena and Alex. I understood it, and it was, thankfully, not the immediate love-at-first-sight type of romance. But I was never captivated by it. I didn’t care if they kissed, I wasn’t pulling for their relationship to succeed, and I just never felt that squee-inducing something.  I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it was because I was frustrated with Lena. Maybe it was because, while he was nice, Alex wasn’t someone who captured my interest. He didn’t make me swoon.

Overall, I liked this book well enough, but it didn’t capture me and I may not read the sequels. I’ve seen so many positively glowing reviews for this book, so it seems I am definitely in the minority. In fact, I think I’ve only read one or two four star reviews and nothing lower than that. I’d say if you think the premise sounds appealing to you and you don’t mind a slower-paced book then give this one a try.Otherwise, if you're like me, you may find this book a little tedious with too much investment of time and not enough payout.
Peer Pressure Rating: 
My Rating:

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Alternative viewpoints:
Bookworm1858 didn't fall in love with Delirium
Supernatural Snark is deliriously in love with Delirium

Looking for something similar? You might like: 
My Delirium cover review (to find out why I put the ARC cover in this post)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson


  1. OOh I was a 4star~~ wait.... does this mean I need to be in a bunker too? *sneaks peeks around*

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books
    Loving the Reviews Challenge

  2. hehe, I think you're safe. But there's plenty of room and books in my bunker :)

  3. I saw the 3.5 stars and went "Uh oh." I'm crossing my fingers that I'll love this one despite all the flaws you pointed out (now I'll be aware of them as I'll be reading Delirium) and not have to hide out in your bunker too.

  4. I love how you're so honest with the reviews I actually just got this one from netgalley, and started reading it tonight. Like you I'm more of a fast-paced type girl I like the story to move along so now I'm kind of thinking "Uh oh" I always try to judge a book by my own standards so we shall see where the story lands on my radar. :)

  5. Exactly my thoughts too. I liked the book but I didn't love it, still lets see where she goes with the second book. I have no doubt that I'll read that too. Wonderful review hun!

  6. Don't worry. I'm not going to come and hunt you out of your bunker lol. I really would think something was wrong in the world if we ALL loved the same books. I'm having a problem with my current read too so I might be joining you. Hope that bunker has 2 beds!

  7. CONGRATS! You have been chosen by me to win the Stylish Blogger Award because your blog is *stylish*! Visit my blog at to "collect" your award! :-)

  8. You are not the only one who didn't love this book (although your first couple sentences had me cracking up laughing :) I've seen at least 1 or 2 other reviews where the reader just felt like the story dragged too much. I thought you put an incredible amount of thought into your reasons WHY the story just didn't do it for you, particularly with the comparisons to other dystopian novels.

    I haven't read Delirium myself yet (although I fully intend to :), but I'll be keeping your review in the back of my mind!

    PS: What's up with that cover? Was it just the ARC cover?

  9. I haven't read the book, yet, but I'm definitely an action girl. There is so much hype about this book....
    Can you make room in your bunker, just in case? Lol

  10. I think this was such a solid review. I'm not reading it now. I do not like slow paced books that barely fit into the genre the claim to be in. And I love dystopian novels so I probably would've thrown this book out of the window haha.


  11. Wow, I've seen so many ARC's of this one floating around everywhere! Haha, but I can't wait to read it. Especially considering all of the hype.

  12. As someone who just finished reading a book of 400+ pages with nothing happening, I totally understand what you went through. The thing with these types of books it that instead of building up the story, it seems to drag. *sigh*

    Thanks for the review.

  13. A Canadian Girl, Haha, well, if you don’t mind a slower plot then you might like this one. They’re less flaws than just that my personal preferences didn’t line up well with this book.

    Angelic Nytmare, I hope you enjoy this one! Reviews can be really helpful, but I agree it’s best to see for yourself.

    Danny, Yay I’m not alone! I was reading all of these great reviews and wondering if I was ever going to find someone who agreed with me :)

    The Slowest Bookworm, Haha, thank you for not hunting me down! The bunker has plenty of room :)

    Jessica, Thank you!

    Katie, Whew, good to know! I talked my finance’s ear off about this book trying to pin point exactly why I didn’t love it. That is the ARC cover. I included it here because I really prefer it over the official cover. I explained (ranted?) a little about it in my Delirium cover review

    Beth, There’s a space all ready for you in the bunker! Though I hope you’ll love the book and not need to hide with me :)

    Lazy Girl, Thank you. I’ve seen a bunch of people who love dystopians love this one as well, but if you look for the same things I do in dystopians, then you may not like it. It seems like a lot of people who liked Matched also like this book.

    T.B., I know! There are a ton of ARCs floating around, especially now that you can get it through Net Galley. I hope you enjoy it!

  14. Dazzling Mage, Ugh, I hate it when this happens! I'm almost confused as to how a book can be so long and yet have so little happen. What was the book you just finish?

  15. Honestly, I feel like I was taken in by Oliver's beautiful writing, totally lulled into falling for this book utterly, completely. I didn't think it was slow at all, in fact I had to look up the page count on goodreads to make sure this book was actually a 400+ page novel like you said it was. I was under the impression it was 300 pages, I was just so engaged.
    Something I agree with you about is the unbelievability of the world... though I must admit, this thought never would have occurred to me if I hadn't read yours and Logan's reviews. Like I said, Oliver just totally sold me on this book with her writing. I'm sure my opinion would be much different if her writing had only been so-so.
    Anyways, I really enjoyed reading this. I love reading reviews and viewpoints that differ from the norm.

  16. Wow, was that a thorough review. This is on my wishlist but I haven't had a chance to get my hands on it. I think I might want to read it more now, after reading your review in contrast with all of the others. Anyway, I am passing the Stylish Blogger Award on to you! check out my blog for more info and Congrats!

  17. Wow. You are so right. I haven't seen a review lower than four stars for this one and I'm glad I read yours! I think I still want to read this one, but I'm not getting my hopes up! I feel like a lot of books these days are just all about development and setting the scene for the sequels. I kind of hate it. ;/

  18. *sigh* I have this book from NetGalley, but I don't know. I can't seem to bring myself to read it. Dystopian isn't really my cup of tea and the sheer size of it it's putting me off.

    I will give it a shot though, :P but I appreciate the thoughtful review, I rather go in with a knowledge it might be slowish, it helps me stay at a book - I'm also the type who likes to be engaged right away, and I tend to be a little impatient - *Sigh* only time will tell.

  19. Small Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate. It's on the blog now.

  20. Aylee, Her writing is really beautiful. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I agree, I love reading different viewpoints on a book.

    Liz, Thank you! I agree, whenever I read mixed reviews I often want to read the book more. I’ll be curious to see which side you fall on with this book. I hope you enjoy it!

    Cialina, Ugh, yes, I hate that too. I think publishers should embrace the duology. It’s perfect for when a story really is longer than a single book can do it justice, but not long enough to be stretched across three books. I think that would help eliminate all of the “Just set up” books. I hope you enjoy this one!

    Anime Girl, I thought this one was very much dystopian “lite” so you might like it even if you don’t like dystopians. The focus was much more on the romantic relationship than fighting against a dystopian society. I’m very impatient and so I also like knowing if a book is slow. I hope you enjoy this one. I’d give it a shot. You should know early on if you’re engaged and if you like Lena.

    Dazzling Mage, Thank you for the heads up!

  21. I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it! Some people felt that the society didn't have a reason to go the way it did in the other recent YA dystopian Matched. I think it might be my kind of book though because I like the sound of the focus on the romance and I don't mind slow moving plots.

  22. Stephanie, If the romance works for you and you don't mind a slower book, then you'll probably love this one. I hope you do!

  23. I think the 3.5 rating is exactly where I was, but I don't do half stars, so the writing swung it up to 4 for me. You really make a great point in that this book isn't nearly scary enough since I don't believe this could or would ever happen in society. You articulate that point very nicely and it deserves to be said, so thank you! The length of this book also drove me crazy. It took me forever to get through it because I got so bored.

  24. Thank you! Yes, I was bored too. Until I read your review, I thought I was the only person in the blogging world who didn't love this one. I'd even flirt with giving it three stars, but I feel a little guilty about that. (Ditto my 3.5 ratings for the Prophecy of the Sisters books). It's like review peer pressure :P

    I'm glad that you mentioned that you didn't really believe the world either. When I read that in your review I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I had already written my review, but I was wringing my hands about it.

  25. You know, it's kind of funny, but I really loved this book, except the ending was just a touch too far-fetched for me. (Ironic, considering you are right about how hard it is to see a future like this being possible, but still...) Most people like the ending the most. Eh. I guess I wasn't thinking much about the plausibility of the premise. I just enjoyed it. :)

  26. Melissa, Seeing all these different views is what I love about book blogging! I actually thought the ending was the best part. Books really are so subjective, which is great. :)

  27. Sorry this one didn't quite appeal to you as much! I really loved this one, but it was definitely slow to start for me and I didn't really connect to it until almost halfway through. It's definitely fun to read everyone's opinion though, it would be boring if we all loved and hated the exact same books. Reviews would be pointless!

  28. Jenny, I love the same thing about reviews! I admit, I'm always a little wary of a book when all I see are glowing reviews.

  29. I admire your ability to "own up" to not enjoying a book which more people have raved about than ranted about. Its tough to go against the tide.

    However, integrity and honesty bode well for a good book reviewer.

  30. Oh gosh, ok, now I really am going to change my rating. I was debating for a while. I think a 3.5 is my "peer pressure" rating. I think a 2 is closer to my level of enjoyment.

  31. Had to come over and check out your review after you commented on mine. I liked this book, but as a whole, I didn't love it. I REALLY enjoyed the last half, but yeah, I know where you are coming from - the first 100 paged did lag a bit for me.

    I will half to disagree with you on one point - it is frightening because something like this did happen before - I got a real sense of the way the government treated its people in this one was a bit S.S.-y - very gestapo. So perhaps not completely dystopian, but certainly fascist.

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  32. I agree, the last half did pick up. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the first half had been edited more.

    I agree with you on the feel of the government. I guess what I really want to see is the progression from normal world to world without love and how we in our world are already starting to make that progression.

  33. I'm joining you in the bunker! Totally know what you mean about how everyone was giving this one 5 stars...I was pretty nervous about posting my less-than-glowing 3.5 star review as well.

    Definitely agree with your point about how the society got the way it is — I still had so many questions at the end of Delirium, and you're right, for a dystopian series I think more of them should be answered in the 1st book so that we have a better idea of how the world works when the action picks up in book 2.

    Thanks for the honest and thorough review - glad I'm not alone in my reaction!

  34. Great review! I've heard a LOT of mixed reviews about this book, but after reading your review, I think I could definitely get into it. :D

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