Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: quirky, unique story; great world-building; interesting spin on the “outbreak” idea; naive, but redeemable, characters; powerful ending/lead-in to second book
These books have been sitting on my shelves for quite a while; I picked them up on sale while book shopping one day, and have since then debated about when to begin them (I have so many other series still to finish, it’s madness right now on my shelves!)
I guess, seeing as it’s summer and this first novel takes place mostly in the summer, this was good timing for this read. However, I feel…Well, I’m not sure how I feel, to be honest. I think I’m a bit disappointed overall, though. Let me try to explain why.
My first Lauren Oliver book was Rooms, and it’s been quite a while since I read it. I thoroughly enjoyed that book; the characters were gripping, the motivations and story realistic (while still maintaining that sense of the paranormal the book was written for). The whole experience was awesome.
I knew, going in to this read, that it would probably be different. This book came out before Rooms, after all, and therefore might not be exactly the same style. The writing is GORGEOUS, as to be expected—Lauren Oliver has a way with words and imagery that I am awed by, bringing her stories to life, characters leaping easily off the page at readers. The story itself, also, was well-written and detailed; the integral plot points are woven nicely, split between the dialogue, the internal monologue, and the small snippets found at the heading of every new chapter. The world-building is inspired and well-done; everything has it’s proper place and order.
But I knew, almost immediately, that something was missing. It wasn’t until I got about halfway through that I realized what that something was: a solid explanation for how families like these are managed…and a sense of connection with our main lead, Lena.
Let me start with the first point. This world’s premise, the ENTIRE plot of the novel, is about amor deliria nervosa—love sickness—and how it’s been “banned.” How it’s “cured” in everyone on their 18th birthday, to make them “happier, healthier, more stable citizens.” The idea alone is intriguing and rather terrifying. How do people LIVE in world without love? Without a sense of closeness or connection? Without caring for others? It is THIS, specifically, I had the biggest problem with…because despite never feeling “love,” people are required to settle down. Get married. Have children. But…how can these things even HAPPEN, and happen in a healthy, normal way…without love?! My conclusion: they don’t. Not really. Nobody who lives in this world, nobody over the age of 18, TRULY cares about anybody else. This is highlighted in the way they interact, treat each other, react to things outside the norm (such as, case in point, the next door neighbor’s dog being bashed over the head just because the Regulator in question felt like doing it.) The whole system is balanced on this highwire act of “we’re all happier, healthier, BETTER for the cure”……when the truth is, they’re not. They’re robots, going through their days pretending. They don’t really talk to each other. They don’t really CARE enough to even remember other people exist. So HOW, exactly, do so many children survive the day to day? If you don’t have that connection with other people, if that part of your brain that cares when your child is wailing or crying or hurt is turned off…what even motivates you to do the simple things, like feed them, or change them, or bathe them? Why haven’t all these people died off yet?
I THINK it comes down to a sense of “responsibility,” as in… “I know I HAVE to do this, so I’m going to do it, but I don’t really care whether it gets done or not except in the fact that if it DOESN’T get done, I’ll be the one in trouble” sort of way. But I wish we had a better explanation; I wish SOMEWHERE, it was explained, because I was really hung up on this idea the entire time I was reading. Also, DUH, the Regulators are no more than deranged psychotics on power trips because…DUN DUN DUN…they don’t CARE. It just…this world is entirely insane, is what I came out of this read feeling.
This being said, I also didn’t feel we were allowed the chance to CONNECT with Lena in a healthy reader-to-book-character way. Because before Alex, she is—as she says SO MANY TIMES throughout the book—doing nothing more than “sleeping.” Alex wakes her up…but it takes almost half the book to do, and by that point, I felt more drawn to Alex and to her best friend, Hana, than I did to our leading lady. Which isn’t good.
Of course, the last few chapters helped rectify this. Once we start seeing her take risks, stick her neck out, STEP PAST the bounds she’s been stuck in her entire life, she feels much more realistic. Hopefully, this continues in the next two books. Hopefully, despite being separated from Alex, she doesn’t fall back into old, harmful habits.
I did enjoy the read; the world is intriguing and, while frustrating, well-done. I just wish I wasn’t quite so hung up on the more confusing details.