Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

When I first heard about this title, I was so excited to get my hands on it. Perhaps it was the idea of a dystopian society where love is outlawed, or the hype, but I felt this was a contemporary book that I would sink my teeth into and love.

I ended up getting a copy from my husband and I read the novel this weekend during my "Outta the Rut Readathon." And to give you a first impression of what I thought, let me tell you the following: I read the first half and set the book down for a lunch break. And then I didn't want to pick the book back up again. I just didn't want to finish it.

But I did finish it. I wanted to be able to say that I had so I can explain why I didn't like it.

I feel I should first say that there was no problem with the actual writing. Oliver is good at her craft and writes in a way that immediately draws in her reader. I was sucked in for the first few chapters. And, it was only the writing ability that kept me engaged. Otherwise I never would have finished the book.

So why didn't I like it?

I think it all comes down to two points. First, the story was incredibly predictable. I knew where Oliver was headed and guessed the ending halfway through. There was only one direction that Oliver could have taken it...and that's where she went. In addition, we could guess what Lena (the MC) was going to do. Oh, her friend who she hasn't talked to in a month is in trouble? OF COURSE she's going to go after her. Like I said, predictable.

The "twists" were also predictable. The fact is, so many authors use "twists" to "shock" their readers that they are worn out and ill-used. There must be some school of thought where authors say, "I know that my readers won't expect this!" so they do it. The problem is, every author, particularly in dystopians, uses these twists. They don't surprise us anymore.

When I finished, I felt like I had read a novel that I had read before. There were the same basic plot conventions, the same quirks, and the same outcome. I was not impressed.

My other big problem with the novel was the pacing. It felt off to me. At times there was too much description, and other times, not enough. Sometimes the action was heavy and intense, and other portions seemed to crawl forward. It annoyed me. A more specific example is the end of the book. The last few scenes exploded and only lasted a few pages. When I finished I couldn't help thinking, "Ummm, what happened? Did I miss something?" Oliver sped too quickly through the action.

I want you all to know that I have nothing against Oliver, YA, or dystopians. I don't review YA here regularly, and I haven't read a great deal of it recently because of my own classics project. But I have read a LOT of YA and dystopian novels in the past, and before this current stream of them has come out. But I find they are getting tired. There are too many and they seem to be recycling the same plot points and conventions-just like paranormal YA titles. It is what happens-there is a cycle.

Why do you think stream-of-consciousness writing done by Faulkner and Woolf died out? Partly because it is a difficult technique to master, but also because as a genre, the market was saturated in their lifetime. Think of cheesy horror films-they have had a heyday but gradually they are dying out. The point is, after a number of years and MANY versions of the same basic plot, audiences get tired of it and move on to the next thing.

I think the whole dystopian genre is on its way out. But, that's my opinion and I can be completely wrong.

Going back to Delirium, I think I might read the sequel, even with all this being said. I am curious to see where Oliver takes it (and to see if I'm right), but I'm not sure. I think I may just be jaded in regards to contemporary literature and YA (similar to Jillian's recent experience). Don't let my biased and grumptastic opinion deter you from reading this. After all, I read this shortly after reading Oliver Twist and Siddhartha. Perhaps not a good mix?

What did you think of this one if you read it? For those of you who read "heavy" fiction a lot, how has is "spoiled" escapist reading for you?


  1. I have this one on my shelves. I've laid off YA for a while now because it has become quite predictable. Not sure if I'll undertake this one.

  2. I was so disappointed in this! After loving Before I Fall, I knew that Oliver was a great writer but the beginning of this was so slow and then the rest was so predictable just like you said.

  3. I think before I started getting back into the classics I was already sensing an emptiness I felt reading so many contemporary books. I didn't understand that feeling at the time, just knew I was unsatisfied. A few months ago I started getting into "heavier" fiction and, though I didn't notice it at the time, that unsatisfactory feeling disappeared. Then, a couple weeks ago, I read a "new" book and that feeling quickly returned. Now I understand. I want the challenge and depth found in those "heavier" books.

    So I'm not sure if reading these more complex books has spoiled the lighter reading for me or just made me aware of my true feelings about them. That said, I am still happy to read some of them hoping to find the exceptions. Especially from my favorite authors.

  4. Well of course you already know I agree with you on this book, though I did find parts of the last quarter surprising (mostly because they seemed to come out of no where for no reason). Two weeks later, I'm not sure I'll read the sequel.

    Personally, I read escapist books and heavy books in two different ways, and in two different moods. Both are ruined when I try to take over. I actually don't like the ellitism that many people assume when they start reading classics, the whole "oh the literature of the past was wonderful and what we have today is crap" attitude. All ages have their good lit and their escapist lit, we just don't remember the escapist lit of the 1800s, you know? Ironically, I posted about Orlando yesterday and there's a huge section in there about a guy who always assumes this attitude. Back in the days of Shakespeare, he moans about how writers like Shakespeare are ruining the "gloire" of classic writing, and a couple hundred years later, he's talking about modern authors ruining the "gloire" of classic authors like Shakespeare. It really cracked me up. :D

    Then again, I come to classics differently from most people. I never liked modern fiction and turned to classics so that I would have something I liked to read. I read them for fun, the way most people read modern lit. I don't read them to learn, though of course I do that too. But they are my comfort books, my fun books, my escapism. I went through a period these last few years where I finally discovered some modern lit that I enjoyed and it was amazing. Now, I've found less and less in the last year that I like, so I'm settling back down with old favorites. But I definitely don't think the books of old were "better" than current books, or that no books out there today are heavy and meaty and all that jazz. There's always a need to separate out the literature from the for-fun books if you're looking for heavy, whether it's modern or classic.

  5. I agree with you here, though I still enjoyed reading this, precisely because of the writing. It is refreshing to read a negative review of this though. I was sick of all the "omg this is amazing!!!!" reviews. This book has been really hyped up, and I don't think it's amazing or even remarkable, just a good read that I enjoyed.

  6. I'm actually moving back towards the classics because I grew tired of some of the lighter-weight fiction I was reading. It was escapist, but I missed the depth of the classics. I'm not saying that there aren't any good books written more recently, but I'm trying to understand what makes a book good, what makes it stand the test of time, so that I can better determine for myself when a contemporary book is good vs. great (lousy is easy to pick out!). That and books from roughly the 1800's have always been my comfort reads! Of course, I still like some light-weight escapist fiction, I just have to read it with different expectations.

  7. I struggle with escapism reading sometimes too. I've found that I have to be in the right mood for whatever I'm reading and I have to still read good books for my escapism books. There is well written chick lit and mysteries, etc. out there and I'd rather read those than complete crap.