Delirium – Lauren Oliver

“There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it. Then, at last, they found the cure.”

I’ve read two of Lauren’s other books (Before I Fall and Liesl and Po) and I found them both gripping and wonderfully written, so I looked forward to getting my teeth into this one. I was even more excited when my manager (who kindly lent me said book) told me that the book has an Atwoodian The Handmaid’s Tale vibe to it. As a massive Atwood fan (I even wrote my dissertation on her) which meant that my expectations were high – but I wasn’t left disappointed.

In Delirium we meet orphan Lena (short for Magdalena) who lives with her aunt and uncle in Portland, USA. Everything is typical modern-day society, with one massive difference. Love – or amor deliria nervosa – is a dangerous disease that must be cured by a procedure shortly after your 18th birthday. If you’re not cured, you’re an Invalid. Attempts to avoid the cure or signs of infection will lead to re-treatment – or ultimately, imprisonment or death. Rumours exist about Invalids who live in the Wilds, the land beyond the border that separates Portland from the outside world.

Lena has only a couple of months until she’s ‘cured’ – which involves scientists cutting into your brain – and paired with a husband for the rest of her happy but loveless days. She anticipates the cure eagerly; she can’t wait for the days where she doesn’t have to worry about meeting boys and how she is going to act – until she meets Alex and falls in love herself.

Alex, an Invalid posing as a cured laboratory guard, opens her eyes to the lies, the brutality and injustice that the regulators (guardians) have been propagating for years, and they plan to run away together. But their plans are halted by the regulators and her family who think that they are only trying to help…

Delirium is one of those books that you can’t stop reading. I was snatching this up in spare minutes throughout the day just to read one or two pages more. Lauren blends the familiar with fear of the unknown so well that I kept imagining this world and the very idea that love could be such a negative thing; an infection. Engaging characters, the original concept and Lauren’s beautiful turn of phrase make this novel compelling and utterly addictive. I can’t wait for the follow up, Pandemonium.

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