Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Book cover of Delirium by Lauren Oliver

So I’m not big on ‘twee.’ My Valentine’s card had a snooty orange panda on the front and a limerick inside, and I bought my Mum an X-box game for Mother’s Day. I’m very loving and I like to feel loved, but I never quite cross the bridge into twee. Isn’t a surprise then, that I picked up Delirium whilst being completely aware of the subject matter? I bought this from The Works more than a year ago and it’s taken me 16 months to read it simply because I thought it would be too much. In the end, it wasn’t. It’s adult enough even for my anti-tripe needs.

Plot summary: They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I’ve always believed them. Until now.

Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years suffocated by a lie.

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.

The best thing about YA dystopian novels like Delirium is the world-building. A logical, well-imagined setting can make or break a book like this one, but Lauren Oliver has created one of the most complete and believable worlds I have ever seen. As I’m sure you’re aware, love is considered to be a disease and every citizen must go through The Procedure before their eighteenth birthday. They’re glad for it though – it’s a welcome ‘cure’ for the infection feared beyond all others. At first I wondered why on earth anybody would submit to that, but it’s explained so well (and so carefully) that after a while it was even beginning to sound like a good idea!

That’s possibly why I always prefer the first book in every series – I love learning about their daily life in Dystopia and I feel slightly cheated whenever they inevitably leave to join whichever band of resistance. Le sigh. Anyway, Lauren Oliver is the Mistress of World-Building. Point.

Delirium starts out very slowly and takes its time building up the aforementioned world. It takes a while for the action to get going, but in a good way. There’s no being dumped straight into the action; it’s more gradual than that. In addition, the protagonist isn’t suddenly, miraculously disillusioned with the dystopian society so frequently occurs in these novels – Lena’s change is softer and you can almost see it happen. That aspect is pretty much perfect actually.

The romance is well-written too. Normally I complain about why a romantic sub-plot isn’t necessary, but it clearly is needed in Delirium. It’s the point, kind of, so special effort has been put it in to make it realistic and enjoyable. Lena and Alex’s relationship builds up quite slowly so it’s nice to see a semi-believable love interest. 

Despite all the above, however… Delirium and I just didn’t click and I’m not really sure why. I understand why it’s good, why it’s different from all the other YA novels, but there’s no getting away from the fact that I just couldn’t get into it. I wasn’t a massive fan of the over-dramatic and clichéd ending, but it’s written well (aside from an over-abundance of cheesy metaphors) it has some of the best world-building I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, somehow, it just didn’t deliver for me.

Visit Lauren Oliver’s website here, or find her on Twitter. 



  1. Kelly says:

    Delirium was just an ok read for me too; and with the amount of people who are devastated by the open-ending to the series, I don't know if I'll bother continuing with it either.

    If I remember correctly, I actually had a hard time believing in Oliver's world. It wasn't that the idea of love as a disease was unbelievable, but Lena's nonchalance towards punishment (which could be death) for breaking rules concerning love was hard to understand when all she did was chastise her friend for breaking those same rules! Lol

    1. Hanna says:

      I know, that's just it. I've read so many reviews going 'OMG THE ENDING!' and I actually saw it coming and wasn't all that bothered. It actually seemed a little over-dramatic.

      Haha, yes, I do know what you mean. I was just saying that the 'love as a disease' thing was done quite well – Lena's sudden swing into Rebel Girl clearly wasn't!

  2. I agree with you about the world building – Oliver is certainly a talented writer.

  3. Ellie says:

    Hmmm, I bought it from The Works too (damn those £1.99 price labels!) but I haven't quite managed to read it yet. I'm glad to hear that the world-building is so enjoyable though – like you, I'm anticipating it being more of a transitory read, maybe in the summer when I'm a bit frazzled, and once or twice I've even considered just giving it to the shop. If it's absorbing enough, though, I reckon I'll keep it for a read, even if it doesn't rock my world!

  4. Emily says:

    I agree with you about world-building in dystopian novels; it is so important and really is the thing that can make or break the book. I was worried I would find the setting in this one unbelievable since I wasn't sure I could wrap my mind around the way they "cured" love. It is such an all-encompassing emotion that includes so many others, but Oliver seemed to recognize that and dulled all of the cured characters' feelings a bit, which made things so much more believable than they would have been had she had focused simply on romantic love.
    I didn't absolutely LOVE this book either, so you're not alone, but it was pretty good although we didn't adore it as much as so many others do. And the second is even better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *