Delirium, book 2
Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn
Pandemonium is the second book in Lauren Oliver’s YA trilogy beginning with Delirium.
In the future world of these books, love has been declared a disease – deemed amor deliria nervosa. Several decades after its identification as a disease, and forty-three years before the events of Delirium, a cure was discovered. When people reach the age of eighteen, they undergo brain surgery to cure them of the deliria. Before the cure, they are assessed and matched to the individual they are to marry and have children with.
Lena, the teenage protagonist of the books, had assumed that, like her older sister, she would be cured when she turned eighteen. Lena looked forward to her cure, and to freedom from the disease. Her mother had been driven mad by the deliria, remaining in love with her family and friends despite three attempted cures. In Deliria, Lena’s carefully planned life was upturned when she met Alex, an uncured “Invalid”, and she succumbed to the deliria herself, falling in love with Alex.
Pandemonium sees Lena moving on, following her as she leaves her old life behind and moves into the Wilds, the untamed places where the Invalids live. The book follows two timelines, with each chapter alternating between each one. In “then”, Lena settles into her life with the Invalids, a life she finds herself ill-prepared for, with the uncured scrabbling for life in the war-scarred Wilds. In “now”, Lena is part of the resistance, infiltrating the cured society she was once a part of.
Pandemonium absolutely does not stand on its own – it is necessary to have read the first book in the trilogy – with little to no introduction to characters or their world given in the second book. The parallel timelines is an interesting choice of structure; it does make the narrative a little difficult to follow at the beginning of the book, but also allows for a direct comparison of the two worlds that Lena moves through.
Most of the new characters introduced in this book are unfortunately somewhat forgettable – the reader is provided with few details about their lives, which makes it difficult to care about them when they suffer or are killed (and it is worth noting that Oliver does not shy away from making her characters suffer).
Lena herself is, at times, also a problematic character. She is a strong female character, and she doesn’t shy away from pushing herself physically and emotionally when needed to. She also displays a strong mothering instinct, finding herself drawn to younger characters. This, in particular, is noteworthy because it highlights the lack of that instinct in cured society – parents must be instructed how to keep their children safe, with no love bond to make them so do instinctively.
It seems to be almost inevitable that speculative YA includes a love triangle, and this trilogy is no different, with a new love interest being introduced in Pandemonium. It is something that makes Lena feel inconsistent as a character, but it is also something that reminds the reader that she is a teenager, and that in this broken society, her own knowledge of love is ill-formed. She, like all of the populace, has a list of deliria symptoms to watch out for, but she still has to guess at what she feels.
The ending of this book is somewhat predicable, but will be no less satisfying for many readers because of that. It ends on a cliffhanger that will likely be frustrating for readers, but one which sets the stage well for the third book in the trilogy.