Series: sequel to Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Narrator: Sarah Drew
Pages: 375 pages
CDs/Discs: 9 CDs; 10 hours, 34 minutes
The next day, the sky is a pale blue, the sun high and amazingly warm, breaking through the trees and turning the ice to rivulets of flowing water. The snow brought silence with it, but now the woods are alive again, full of dripping and twittering and cracking. It is as though the Wilds have been released from a muzzle.
We are all in a good mood–everyone but Raven, who does her daily scan of the sky and only mutters, “It won’t last.”
On my way to the nests, stamping through the snow, I’m so warm I have to take off my jacket and tie it around my waist. The nests will be green today, I can sense it. They’ll be green, and the supplies will come, and the scouts will return, and we’ll all flow south together. [...]
Red. Red. Red.
Dozens of [birds]: black feathers coated thickly with crimson-colored paint, fluttering among the branches.
Red means run. (126-127)
Lena has escaped from the “civilized society,” but has lost her love and savior Alex in the process. Now she’s living with Raven and Tack, two people she met after escaping, trying to portray an obedient life while helping the resistance from the inside. Through flashbacks to “Then”, we see her being rescued from certain death by a company of resistance fighters, hiding in the Wilds, surviving on what little they can scrounge and preparing for the coming winter and move south. But Lena, Raven, and Tack have to push their harrowing journey behind them if they are to stay hidden from prying eyes. In her task to get close to and watch a young man named Julian who serves as figurehead of the movement insisting upon “the Cure” for all, she finds herself kidnapped with Julian and held with nothing but an umbrella and a tube of lipstick at her disposal. Can she turn Julian into an ally without exposing her own secret, or will they be unable to bridge the gap that separates them?
If you remember, I fell in love (pardon the pun) with Delirium upon my first reading. This sequel made me question what I loved about the first one. I started listening to it as an audiobook, and could NOT get into it. It might have been the narrator, but Lena sounded whiney, overly brooding, and just melodramatic. The writing, which I’m sure was trying to be poetic and descriptive, just seemed to languish. Everything seems to take her breath away or amaze her with either its beauty or its horror. She feels everything and internalized the minutest of details, and Oliver takes the time to explain everything. For instance:
Alex is the only boy I’ve ever known or really spoke to. I don’t like to think of all those male strangers, just on the other side of the stone wall, with their baritone voices and their snorts of laughter. Before I met Alex, I lived almost eighteen years believing fully in the system, believing 100 percent that love was a disease, that we must protect ourselves, that girls and boys must stay rigorously separate to prevent contagion. Looks, glances, touches, hugs–all of it carried the risk of contamination. And even though being with Alex changed me, you don’t shake loose the fear all at once. You can’t.
I close my eyes, breathe deeply, again try and force myself down through the layers of consciousness, to let myself be carried away by sleep. (16-17)
Who thinks like this?! Okay, we get it, you can’t sleep. We got that with the previous, unquoted (is that a word?), paragraph where you talk about the noises you hear. We as readers don’t need to have everything spelled out for us so completely.
Once I got the printed book from the library, I gave up on the audiobook. It went a lot faster, but now I had the narrator’s voice stuck in my head. And I couldn’t get it out. They really need a new narrator for this series, because I know I would have liked it more if I hadn’t been so focused on all the times that Lena went reflective. Even when she’s getting attacked, about halfway through the book, she’s much more reflective in her descriptions than matter of fact. “I am striking without looking, struggling to breathe, and everything is bodies–hardness and enclosure, no way to run, no way to break free–and the slashing of my knife.” Maybe the book should have been written as a novel in verse.
I also struggled with the jumping back and forth between “Then” and “Now”. The timeline of events got confused in my brain, and readers still don’t witness how Lena, Raven, and Tack actually infiltrated the “real” world, which I was most curious about since it seems like people rarely move between cities in this new society. I would have liked it much better if the story had started and finished with Then, and proceeded to Now chronologically.
I have to admit though that Oliver knows how to write the action sequences, even with the overly descriptive passages. Lana is a warrior similar to Katniss from The Hunger Games and she readily adapts and acquires her survival instincts. She fights with the best of them, and is not about to get taken, captured, or killed, especially after Alex tried so hard to get her out and avoid the cure. The ending is a doozy. On the one hand, it is cliche and predictable and groan-enducing that we now have to wait for book three, but I still wanted to stand up and applaud her for her execution as red-herrings were thrown at us from the beginning and had thoroughly convinced me it wasn’t going to happen, ESPECIALLY not on the last page. And the plot twist regarding the kidnapping was also something I did NOT see coming.
Be prepared to read this as opposed to listening to it, and you’ll be able to avoid the overly dramatic whine that permeates my reading now and you’ll enjoy the action much more.