book review: pandemonium by lauren oliver

Pandemonium is the second book in Lauren Oliver‘s dystopian trilogy, Delirium (read review of the first book here). The series is set in a futuristic America in which love is considered to be a disease that must and is erradicted by the age of 18. Until then, boys and girls are kept separate so that no one becomes infected.

Side note: anyone who has not read Delirium stop reading now until you don’t mind spoilers!

Pandemonium picks up where Delirium left off. Lena, the main protagonist (the story is told from her perspective), has escaped into the Wilds, but Alex, an uncured male who Lena falls for, is tragically captured and killed by the law enforcers during the escape. We find Lena in the Wilds, rescued by Raven, a fellow “Invalid” (the name of uncured people), and we watch her adjust to life in the Wilds and life without Alex. We see her struggle with grief.

The book’s chapters are separated into “then” and “now”, “then” focusing on when Lena first joined the Wilds and “now” focusing on the current resistance schemes panned by Raven and other “invalids”. We are introduced to a mountain of new characters, most importantly, Julian Fineman.

I have to admit, when I first started reading Pandemonium, I wasn’t that impressed. I was actually a little disappointed because I could not stop raving about Delirium and how amazing it was. I found the story to be a little disjointed and lacking the elements that I so enjoyed about the first book. There didn’t seem to be enough about the on-going resistance and almost nothing about Lena’s mother.

Side note: For those unaware, Lena was brought up believing that her Mum had died when she was six years old. Instead, she was held in the Crypts, a cross between a prison and a mental institution, after being infected with the “deliria”. She then tunnelled her way out and as far as Lena is aware, is living in The Wilds. This was the main motivation behind crossing the border (well I felt it was) and I was disappointed that this element of the story was largely overlooked.

I was starting to get to the point that if I wasn’t so in love with the first book, I probably would have stopped reading, but I am so unbelievably grateful that I stuck it out. The last third of the book was amazing. It was so worth waiting for. The elements I loved in the first book started to emerge.

One of the things I’ve loved about the Delirium trilogy is how Lauren Oliver takes common texts/books and twists them to suit the idea of love being a disease. My favourite from Pandemonium was this:

He is reading from the Book of Abraham. Of course. In it, God commands Abraham to kill his only son, Isaac, after Isaac becomes sick with the deliria. And so he does. He takes his son to a mountain and plunges a knife straight through his chest…Obedience to God, to safety, to the natural order: That is what the Book of Abraham teaches us.

While it is slightly slow to start, I would recommend reading Pandemonium, for no other reason than the fire cracker ending.

Published 27th February 2012


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