Guest Reviewer: Shelby Hillers
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Collins (2011)
Number of Pages: 394
How long it took me to read: 1 week
Where I bought this book: I bought the Kindle Edition on Amazon.com
Like a Moth to a Flame
I always browse through the online bookstore for the Kindle, especially the “selected for you” section. Delirium was being featured with various other dystopian literature for free through a Hunger for Dystopian Teen Sampler. The pack featured a few chapters from several books such as Eve, Gone, Shatter Me, Delirium, Under the Never Sky, Divergent, Partials, and Variant. I figured, why not? It’s free and features a good amount of books. The title Delirium was what made me want to read that sample first. After reading the first chapter, I was sold.
I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:
5. “I know that life isn’t life if you just float through it. I know that the whole point—the only point—is to find the things that matter, and hold on to them, and fight for them, and to refuse to let them go.” (p.342)
4. “I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” (p.29)
3. “He who leaps for the sky may fall, it’s true. But he may also fly.” (p.374)
2. “Hate isn’t the most dangerous thing…Indifference is.” (p.324)
…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…
1. “The Book of Shhh says that deliria alters your perception, disables your ability to reason clearly, impairs you from making sound judgments. But it does not tell you this: that love will turn the whole world into something greater than itself.” (p.234)
Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.
New Word: deliria (noun)
Definition (Source: Merriam-Webster.com): (pl. of delirium) 1) an acute mental disturbance characterized by confused thinking and disrupted attention usually accompanied by disordered speech and hallucinations; 2) frenzied excitement
Synonyms: agitation, deliriousness, frenzy, distraction, fever, feverishness, flap, furor, furore, fury, hysteria, rage, rampage, uproar
Origins: circa 1563; Latin, from delirare ‘to be crazy’, literally, to leave the furrow (in plowing) from de- + lira ‘furrow’
As in: See #1 quote above
Conversation with the Reader
While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:
“The first chapter starts by briefly stating how, in an alternate future world, love is a disease and there’s a cure for it. In fact, everyone gets cured of it when they turn eighteen. Magdalena, the main character, can’t wait to be cured of love and follow the way the government wants her to live. You learn this in the first chapter so you start to wonder what has made the world turn into this and how long it will be before Magdalena starts questioning the ways of the government. In order for the book to move forward, I surely thought at some point Magdalena was going to start seeing the world for what it really was—utterly controlled and lacking freedom. It wasn’t a matter of if she would but when exactly the pieces would start to fit together for her.”
“For me, dystopian literature is made up of more than just stories about the end of the world. It’s a glimpse of an alternate universe, a huge ‘what if’ scenario that makes me question things, whether it be powers of authority or simply my own life choices. Delirium has several layers to it, several stories beautifully woven into one novel. The world that Oliver has created puts a new spin on what society and the future might hold for us. I love books that stick with me for weeks after I’ve finished them. Delirium challenged me to view something as old as the idea of love in a new way: as a disease. It altered my perspective on society by showing how easily we are willing to follow the government for the greater good. Thinking outside the box can be upsetting at times and in the world of Delirium it can cost you your life.”
“This disease of ‘love’ possesses a person and brings out the worst in them. Through the government’s eyes, someone who is diseased is crazy, a wreck to society, and serves no purpose. They are to be excluded from society in confinement and to never interact with people to prevent spreading the disease and the behavior that comes with it.
“The story is told from Magdalena’s point of view, who for years has believed what the government tells society and thinks nothing of it. At first I was annoyed with Magdalena—I’d find myself begging her to see reason, knowing that she must for this story to continue. But I really couldn’t be that mad at Lena; she’s just showing us how easy it is to follow the rules. She’s extremely compliant and exemplifies how people are willing, almost asking, for others to take over and to tell them how to live their lives because they’re too scared to do live them for themselves. Imagine how easy it must be to live your life under someone else’s instructions. You don’t have to make choices, you don’t have to think about what you should or need to do, and you don’t have to think about your purpose in life. And that’s what it comes down to in this alternative reality; in Magdalena’s world, you don’t have to think for yourself.
“I can imagine this takes a load off for some people. After all, if you mess up, it’s not your fault because you were following someone else’s instructions. You’re just there. But does that truly make you happy or are you just following orders because someone told you it should make you happy? How simple are we willing to make life in order to avoid accountability?”
“The author has written these amazing tidbits before each chapter that are sections from a book within the story. The Book of Shhh was written by the government to explain how love is a disease. Everyone has to read it. It becomes like a Bible to this society. The sections are beautifully written and each makes it disturbingly easy to see love from a negative standpoint. The sections are so believable that I find myself thinking, ‘Yeah, I could see the government officially saying this to its people.’
“I can’t help but understand this society’s perspective on love and what it does to its people. To them, love is this horrible disease that changes how they think and act. They haven’t manipulated or twisted love into something it’s truly not—the government and society only see the drastic things love can do. The government eventually decides to end love; people have to go through a procedure that leaves them with two scars on their necks where they’re been injected with the cure. The majority of them don’t even blink an eye at the process; they accept it at face value and go on with their lives as if nothing was.”
“At one point, Alex describes the people who have been cured as ‘asleep’. The people who are cured live their lives by going to their assigned jobs, being with their government-assigned spouses and having their allocated number of children. They watch what is allowed on television, listen to the correct music, and read the right materials. It is as if they are all in a dazed state, just going through the motions in life. Once Magdalena starts to really see what is going on, she awakens from the stupor—she starts to question the government and search for answers to how life was before the authorities took over.
“Reading about her journey, I’ve started to wonder what I would be like if I lived in her society: would I live in a daze and follow the rules for the common good or would I be awake and question why the government tells me what to believe?
“If I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s not to just trust whatever I’m told. This might seem obvious but if you’ve believed in something for long enough, it can seem ridiculous to think anything else. The government in this story controls everything: television, music, education, jobs, even who marries whom. For years, people live in this system because they don’t know any better; they don’t have anything to compare it to. The lifestyles we enjoy are unfamiliar to them; we have freedom to listen to what we want, to watch what we want, and to read what we want. Not until Magdalena finds music and documents from the past does she realize what life used to be like, the kind of freedom people used to have.
“It’s easy to strip someone of their freedom when they don’t kick and fight. Delirium highlights just how much fundamental concepts like freedom and truth can change an entire society. It’s made me realize how much I’m used to having freedom and being able to search for the truth—the truth of what we’re doing as a nation, of what’s going on in the world, of the history of the world and where we plan on heading in the future. Most of us are used to having access to knowledge, but take that away from us, and you’ll quickly see what people really value.”