Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

UK book cover of Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I tend to have a strange relationship with the second books in dystopian trilogies. I love them when the main character is part of whichever messed-up society is the theme of the moment, but by the second book they’ve usually joined the inevitable rebellion and I lose interest a little. Combined with this and my unenthusiastic response to Delirium, reading Pandemonium wasn’t on the top of my looking-forward-to list. But you know what? I loved it. It’s rare that a sequel can beat the first book, but I read Pandemonium in a day and can’t wait to get my hands on the final book.

Plot summary: Lena’s been to the very edge. She’s questioned love and the life-changing and agonising choices that come with it. She’s made her decision, but can she survive the consequences?

It begins well; very slowly, much like Delirium, and we jump in immediately where we left off. It takes its time to establish the new world Lena has found herself in, which is clearly very different to the world in the first book. I’ve read a few reviews that complain about the pace, but I really like Lauren Oliver’s attention to detail. I raved about her world-building skills in my earlier review, so I’m hardly going to start complaining about them now.

The chapters alternate between Lena right after we left her in Delirium and Lena six months down the line. It actually works really well; it’s interesting to watch as she makes the choices that will lead her down that path eventually. It’s a different take on the usual alternating character POV.

Romance-wise… I definitely prefer Julian. I’m not really into the whole Team Whoever thing, but I do have a definite preference here. He just seems like a better fit for Lena; he’s more innocent than Alex and Lena herself is still vulnerable underneath her newly-gained toughness. I do have a theory about who she will end up with, but I’ve actually managed to avoid spoilers so far so I don’t know the answer just yet.

Pandemonium is less gushy than Delirium. There are fewer metaphors about the meaning of love and the relationship is more subtle. I think it’s now accepted that love is A Good Thing (because apparently it needed to be spelled out before), so the focus is more on the plot and the characters. I know opinions will vary on this, but I definitely prefer it this way.

Some aspects are slightly predictable, but I won’t mention them in case anybody reading this didn’t predict them. That said, there are also some interesting twists that I didn’t see coming, so I’m content for a tad of pre-empting. The ‘shock’ ending I saw coming from a mile off, though. I knew it was coming and I wasn’t thrilled.

Actually, that’s pretty much my only issue with Pandemonium. If you’re a good writer (and by this point I’m willing to state that Lauren Oliver is), then you shouldn’t need to resort to dramatic cliff-hangers to get people to read your next book. If you’ve hooked them in by your plot, your characters and your prose, then they’ll buy the sequel regardless. It just seems cheap.

After a rocky start with Delirium, I ended up really liking Pandemonium. Like I said above, it’s rare for me to enjoy a second book in a series more than the first, but I read this in a day and enjoyed every minute. Well, minus the ending. To conclude, my advice is that even if you read Delirium and didn’t think it was for you, give Pandemonium a chance anyway. You might be surprised.

Read my review of Delirium or visit Lauren Oliver here.

Comments

  1. I was quite underwhelmed with Delirium and as such never continued with the series, so it's good to read a good review of book 2 from someone who agreed with me on book 1 but kept going. Maybe I'll give the series another chance. I did love Lauren Oliver's "Before I Fall," but Delirium didn't stand out for me. Glad to hear it gets better. Thanks for the review.

  2. I will read the next book in the series because I love Lauren Oliver's work before this, but I hate that this book was missing the magic. I sobbed at the end of both BEFORE I FALL and DELIRIUM because of the beautiful way the book came full-circle (the only other author i know who does this is John Irving), but this one didn't do this for me at all–i found myself skipping over endless description, trying to get to the scenes that never came.

    Marlene Detierro (Alaska Fishing Lodge)

  3. A gorgeous book, well written and another amazing success for Lauren Oliver. I was unsure if I would read the final book in this series, but now that doubt has completely fled. I eagerly await the thrilling conclusion to this trilogy, and know that Lauren Oliver has an amazing career ahead of her as one of the most promising YA authors to date.

    Mica
    Customer recommendations for Atlantic Highlands NJ Maid Service website

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