Pandemonium – Lauren Oliver

“I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.”

This is the second book in the Delirium trilogy by the talented Lauren Oliver and another addictive, fast-paced read. Like the first book, we follow Lena’s life as she struggles to come to grips in the Wilds after her and Alex’s escape attempt is halted by the authorities. The last thing Lena sees is her beloved being shot down – then she crawls over the fence and into her new life.

Pandemonium is split into two time periods – Now and Then. The reader is shunted chronologically back and forth as we see Lena embark on her life in the Wilds, forgetting her old life completely, and helping the resistance as they struggle on with little food and supplies in an attempt to dodge and overthrow the authorities. Meanwhile, in Then, Lena and fellow Invalids Raven and Tack have invented a plan to infiltrate the system. Lena is posing as a student, but when she attends a pro-Cure event, she and DFA founder’s son Julian Fineman are kidnapped together. At first he is terrified of being contaminated – he can tell she’s been struck with Amor Deliria Nervosa – but soon he falls prey to the ‘disease’, too. He joins the resistance, and Lena, who has finally managed to push Alex to the back of her head, promises to stick with him forever – until a familiar figure interrupts them…

I loved Pandemonium, but I could feel myself racing to the end to find out if Alex would turn up. He and Lena made such a lovely fictional couple so I didn’t warm to Julian as much as I felt I should have. Also, there was barely any ‘resting’ time throughout the novel – it was so fast paced, both in Now and Then, Oliver barely pauses for literal breath. Not only that, but the first novels of trilogies are so original and fresh that I very rarely find the second books as interesting. Nonetheless, this is a masterful piece of work and carries on the momentum of Delirium well. I would have liked to have seen more of Lena’s mother – she turns up fleetingly, and I thought this novel would have focused on her much more predominantly – but it is a gripping read. I can’t wait for the third novel in the trilogy, to see how all of the loose ends are tied up. I’m also looking forward to meeting more people – Oliver is skilled at creating believable characters with depth and intricate personalities.

I don’t often quote books, but I have to pick out my favourite lines in the novel:
“Raven has lost deeply, again and again, and she, too, has buried herself. There are pieces of her scattered all over. Her heart is nestled next to a small set of bones buried beside a frozen river, which will emerge with the spring thaw, a skeleton ship rising out of the water”.

It sums Pandemonium and this strange dystopian world up well – the bleakness of their surroundings, the immense strength and versatility it takes to survive, as well as hope for the future; one without the cure, one without rules and regulations on feelings, one where you can fall in love and follow your heart. I can’t wait to read how it all ends.

Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the review copy.

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