Tag Archives: trilogy

What the World Needs Now is Love

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Harper, a division of HarperCollins; $17.99; 448 pages)

When we meet Lena, her final year of high school is ending and she has one last summer to spend with her best friend Hana before the demands of adulthood claim her.   Like many almost-eighteen-year-olds, she sees cracks forming in her bond with Hana, and they worsen when she discovers that Hana has been listening to forbidden music and breaking curfew to sneak out to illegal dance parties.

Unlike many almost-eighteen-year-olds, Lena does not feel the need to have a last hurrah.   In fact, she is counting down the days until she can embrace the life that the government will plan for her, right down to selecting the boy she will marry.   Why?   Because when she turns eighteen, she will undergo the cure for the affliction that took the life of her mother: amor deliria nervosa – in a word, love.   And she can barely wait.

In the dystopian world of Portland, Maine, of the not-too-distant future, the government has determined that love is the root of all evil, and the remedy it has devised not only prevents its occurrence but also erases the memory of the fevered, distracting, roller-coaster emotions that plague those afflicted in their teen years.   Lena, short for Magdalena, as in Mary Magdalene, is anxious to prove to the couple that raised her – and to Portland, in general – that she is not like her mother.

But, of course, then she meets Alex, and she realizes that she’s wrong.   “If pneumonia felt this good,” she says, “I’d stand out in the snow in winter with bare feet and no coat on, or march into the hospital and kiss pneumonia patients.”

Delirium is a bit slow to get rolling, but readers who hang with Lena through her first “evaluation” for her “pairing” will be rewarded with a love story reminiscent, in some ways of Romeo and Juliet, as well as an exploration of other forms of love, and a nail-biting chase scene at its climax.

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver – whose debut novel, Before I Fall, was a New York Times bestseller – is the first book in a trilogy.   So Shakespeare can rest assured that Lena will not by any other name become a Juliet.   It will be interesting to see who she does become.

Highly recommended.

Kimberly Caldwell

A review copy was received from the publisher.   Delirium was released in hardcover form on February 1, 2011.

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You Belong to Me

Matched by Ally Condie (Dutton Books, November 2010)

Matched, by Ally Condie, presents a world in which Society prescribes a life for each member and Officials stand in for God, evaluating strengths and weaknesses with scientific precision to enable optimal career paths and “matches.”   Although Condie never states it directly in this young adult novel, a match is a precursor to a breeding, which, presumably, will result in future generations of ever more perfect human products.

The story takes place in the not-too-distant future and opens on the eve of two milestone events in the life of the heroine: Cassia’s match on her seventeenth birthday and her beloved grandfather’s death on his eightieth.   Both events are planned and orchestrated by Officials to maximize the efficiency of their respective lives.   But grandfather is a bit of a rebel, and he either sees or hopes he sees a kindred spirit in Cassia.  His last gifts to her are an illicit poem that did not survive Society’s literature purge and the advice, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

The premise is wonderful.   The setting is satisfyingly dystopian – humans wear plainclothes in colors designating their work status; the Officials manage people as though they were livestock; and prescribed recreation sometimes takes the form of walking in the woods, a pasttime as obsolete as typing on a manual typewriter or looking up a word in a hardbound dictionary.

Condie keeps us at arm’s length from the characters, however – Cassia cries, but we don’t cry with her.   That may be an intentional reflection of the sanitized Society in which they live.   Or it may be due to the fact that Matched is the first book in a trilogy and the author is growing the characters slowly.   Regardless, the cliffhanger on which Matched ends is more than enough reason to seek out the sequel in November of this year.   (Dutton will publish the third book in the series in November of 2012.)

Recommended.

Kimberly Caldwell

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Matched by Ally Condie.

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