I say love, you say disease.

Title: Delirium

Author: Lauren Oliver

Genre: Science-fiction, near-future dystopia

Days to read: One

Pages: 441

Synopsis and Impressions:

What a crazy world we live in. But do you think it would be even crazier if there was no such thing as love? If love was genetically bred out of us? Okay, let’s discuss this like newbie philosophers. If I take this idea to the extremes – if there’s no love – there can’t be no hating either, correct? The two work opposed to each other. The more you can feel love, the more you can feel hate and yakkity yak along those lines. Hello! We can save the world, people! (that’s totally what the brilliant scientists of near-future Maine are going to win the future Nobel Peace Prize for) What am I talking about?! Just forget about hating, there’s not going to be any feeling whatsoever! Let’s just say that, shall we? Because to me, love is such a strong human emotion that it’s very difficult to separate its taint from all your other emotions. If you feel fear for your life, could you feel fear because you love yourself and your life too much to let it go (for example)? Or, maybe you feel brave in the face of fear because a loved one is at risk? Or is fear an instinct…? Anyway, there are just so many kinds of love: love for your parents, love for your siblings, love for your darling loved one…heck, even love for your laptop.

So, here the book industry has presented to us the latest “zombie” book – I call it a zombie book because the disease that is eradicated for your own good is the disease of love (amor deliria nervosa, as Lauren Oliver names it). And it makes you a beautiful, mild-mannered, wrinkle-free zombie that can march through life without heartache. Or, at most, only a silly memory of a heartache that will cause you to convince other budding under-18-year-old Romeo and Juliet enthusiasts that their love is a contrivance of their young silly hormones going wonkers and that they shouldn’t have midnight trysts and do anything silly in the name of a heart disease.

Okay, I admit, a lot of my paragraph 1 philosophical probing has very little to do with Delirium by Lauren Oliver. In this book, the main type of love that is considered dangerous and must be loped off from that darned frontal cortex of yours is the one that flourishes between two people. In particular, it affects romantic love and lust and everything in that package. Also, it affects love between siblings and parents, but that is not the main dish in this book.

Let me tell you, if you heard about this book and thought, “Wow, this one’s going to be sappy and romantic, I’ll bet.” You bet right. But sappy and romantic in a very heart-thrilling, gut-punching, deftly written – feeling-ful way. A very good way. I don’t think I’m a sappy romantic. I never liked reading Romeo and Juliet in high school. I disliked Romeo for being so mooney and ending up mooning himself to death (though I did like Juliet for being smart and diplomatic and trying to find an actual solution to things). So no, I’m not a hopeless romantic. So, this book is totally accessible for the non-H.R.s among us. Characters are lovely and cutsey and tryst-y rebel lovers. After an early curfew of 9 o’clock, the illegallove-hunting volunteers (you can top up your volunteer hours doing this!) begin their prowl and they have walkie-talkies and everything and they will find you and your loved one and bring you to this horrible smelling pit of a prison where you can die from a real health problem. If you are suspected of encouraging the disease to spread, you can be sure to end up there, labelled a Sympathizer. No decent citizen complains much, though, except the occasional cows that end up in places they shouldn’t be. Most people are too busy living their lives with an extra hole in their brain to care much about anything.

Illegal underage loitering! Put your hands up! (or let us tie them to beds with nylon rope and register you for an early procedure)
Illegal underage loitering! Put your hands up! (or let us tie them to beds with nylon rope and register you for an early procedure)

This book is about Lena and counts down to the day her brain surgery procedure will happen. It begins with her eagerly looking forward to being inducted into the love-free world of adulthood, so that she’s safe from becoming a madwoman like her mother was before she killed herself from missing her father too much. On the day of her interview with the scientists/psychologists, however, her best friend, Hana, starts whispering worrisome rebellious things into her ear as if she’s having doubts about the procedure. Then, Lena botches up her interview questions by forgetting that her favourite color is blue not grey and rambling on about Romeo and Juliet, to the dismay of her interviewers (funny thing about that interview…it’s kind of like a matchmaking session). To make things worse, mysterious boy eavesdropping on her interview diseases-up her feelings and now she’s afraid she might be sick. But all’s not what it seems in dystopia-near-future Maine, and it takes a lot of love and pain to make Lena realize the truth and have the courage to let her palpitating-heart lead the way.

So much to love about this book and this crazy place on the coast. Some of the little infodumps – quotes from The Book of Shhh (a guidebook everyone seems to use in this world) and other fictional facts – that introduce the chapter are sometimes eerily familiar warnings that sound true:

Symptoms of Amor Deliria Nervosa

PHASE ONE

preoccupation; difficult focusing

dry mouth

perspiration, sweaty palms

fits of dizziness and disorientation

reduced mental awareness; racing thoughts; impaired reasoning skills

PHASE TWO

periods of euphoria; hysterical laughter and heightened energy

periods of despair; lethargy

changes in appetite; rapid weight loss or weight gain

fixation; loss of other interests

compromised reasoning skils; distortion of reality

disruption of sleep patterns; insomnia or constant fatigue

obsessive thoughts and actions

paranoia; insecurity

PHASE THREE (CRITICAL)

difficult breathing

pain in the chest, throat, or stomach

difficulty swallowing; refusal to eat

complete breakdown of rational faculties; erratic behaviour; violent thoughts and fantasies; hallucinations and delusions

PHASE FOUR (FATAL)

emotional or physical paralysis (partial or total)

death

If you fear that you or someone you know may have contracted deliria, please call the emergency line toll-free at 1-800-PREVENT to discuss immediate intake and treatment.

Doesn’t this sound just like a pamphlet or an ad for some debilitating disease? I’d believe it. Incidentally, I’ve gotten some of those phase four symptoms simply from reading a super-awesome-book like this one.

Also:

In the decades before the development of the cure, the disease had become so virulent and widespread it was extraordinarily rare for a person to reach adulthood without having contracted a significant case of amor deliria nervosa (please see “Statistics, Pre-Border Era”)….Many historians have argued that pre-cure society was itself a reflection of the disease, characterized by fracture, chaos, and instability….Almost half of all marriages ended in dissolution….Incidence of drug use skyrocketed, as did alcohol-related deaths.

People were so desperate for relief and protection from the disease they began widespread experimentation with makeshift folk remedies that were in themselves deadly, consuming concoctions of drugs assembled from common cold medications and synthesized into an extremely addictive and often fatal compound (please see “Folk Cure Through the Ages”)….

Finally:

Humans, unregulated, are cruel and capricious; violent and selfish; miserable and quarrelsome. It is only after their instincts and basic emotions have been controlled that they can be happy, generous, and good.

The Book of Shhh

So anyway, on the topic of the huge messed up future Maine – this is what happens when you let scientists handle matters of the heart. Everyone knows that a scientist acts and thinks literally with cool removed logic, right? (I consider myself a biochemist, hence a scientist; hence I can make this tongue in cheek comment about dystopias and blameworthy corruption-enabling scientists.)

Here’s another text fragment I like:

What is beauty? Beauty is no more than a trick; a delusion; the influence of excited particles and electrons colliding in your eyes, jostling in your brain like a bunch of overeager schoolchildren, about to be released on break. Will you let yourself be deluded? Will you let yourself be deceived?

This one was apparently from the fictional work, “On Beauty and Falsehood” from The New Philosophy by an Ellen Dorpshire. Way to tackle an age-old Keatsian debate by tearing it apart into electrons bombarding each other. You’re ruining the fun!!

So. By the end of the book my heart was squeezed to death. Which is a good sign. The excerpt for Pandemonium (book 2) is making me want to give free hugs. Can’t wait!

Rating: 4.5 notes discovered in The Governor’s air-cupping hand.

Other reviews:

-Sheila from Book Journey: “Lauren Oliver has done it again.  Delirium is a story that I was not sure about picking up (much like her first novel Before I Fall).  I didn’t know if I would like the subject matter and when i first heard about this book I felt it had a techy feel to it that I was not sure was for me.  Yet I had to admit that it took me a while to pick up Before I Fall as well, and I came out of that read gushing about the inner story line and deeper meaning of the book. ”

-Emily from Emily’s Reading Room: “The writing definitely carried this book for me. Had the writing not been as good as it was, I probably would not have liked it nearly as well as I did. In fact, while I was in the moment reading the book, I had almost no complaints. It wasn’t until I sat down and really thought about the story that I thought about a few inconsistencies.  I’ll definitely pick up more books by Lauren Oliver in the future, because I certainly was taken with her style.”

-Ladybug from Escape in a Book: ” really liked the characters in this novel, they were belivable and cleverly written. My favorite character was Grace, Lena’s six year old cousin, who due to a traumatic experience dosen’t speak one word. Grace just somehow touched my heart. This story has it all; action, romance, tragedy, angst and more.”

-Speed Reader from My Favorite Author: “DELIRIUM has an interesting premise – it’s a dystopic future where love (amor deliria nervosa) has finally been recognized as a disease and a cure is available (aka: required). And like any good dystopian story, you have (1) a controlling government who promises that their tactics are for everyone’s good and protection; (2) the obedient masses who are dull and colorless and lifeless but don’t realize it; (3) a rebellious “other” group who live outside the organized society but who like to create trouble and hopes to overthrow the controlling government; (4) an innocent teenager in the society who whole-heartedly believes all the government propaganda until shown the “truth”.”

The Book Muncher: “Delirium is a tragically beautiful masterpiece of dystopian fiction. I love reading about dystopias because they are removed but usually not entirely implausible situations of the world gone wrong. Oliver’s dystopia in Delirium is just riveting. The thought of love as a legitimate disease is both fascinating and appalling at the same time. And Oliver sets this world up wonderfully by giving adequate background to the development of the cure, the present procedures set in place to prevent an outbreak of the deliria, and the relationship between the deliria and society.”

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7 thoughts on “I say love, you say disease.

  1. Mari – No problem! I like linking in reviews so that people who may come across my blog and want more feedback can just click around to other people’s reviews!
    Sheila – Thank you! I’m wishing the next book will be out soon to put me out of my misery.

  2. Hmmm, I find some similarities between this book and the movie Equilibrium. It has become one of our worst fears that some day we will lose all our emotions, be ‘cured’ of love and act like rational living machines. Hopefully that won’t happen because we people are irrational. Well, not always but in enough cases and sometimes in the most important situations. I have read a couple of other books about a similar subject, all of them downloaded from http://www.Allyoucanbooks.com and a few of them were actually ok to read.

  3. carencole – Interesting! I’ll be sure to check out the film! Yeah, I think there are a few things out there about people in the future living emotionless lives and etc… this was a pretty entertaining read and the way Lauren Oliver dealt with the disease was fairly entertaining/interesting!

  4. My pseudo-philosophical question would be: would children even have the capacity for love if they were not themselves loved by their parents? Or at least by some adult? But I would read this anyway; I like Lauren Oliver. Have you read Before i Fall? I thought it would be sort of wet, but it turned out to be surprisingly thoughtful (as well as being a great Story.)

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