Welcome to the third instalment of the Delirium Trilogy.
If you like this series, please leave. You won’t want to hear this. I promise you. And trust me when I say that this review is the censored version.
By the way, there’s a load of spoilers here, so if you haven’t read it and don’t want to be spoiled, shoo! Go read it if you really want to (or again don’t, if you don’t want to).
It’s a split narrative between Hana and Lena. Hana got cured but it didn’t work, and she’s engaged to this creep who she later lets her best friend assassinate. Lena leads Julian on while being in love with Alex and is horrible to everyone and the biggest ball of angst for someone with such a mild, uninteresting situation that is never really expanded upon.Then a bunch of people die who you don’t care about.
The UK cover is gorgeous. Look at it!
I read this book mainly for the cover, and the fact that I wanted some sense of closure which I never got.
The chapter titles were in a really pretty font. They were all curly and long and swishy.
Lauren Oliver probably made a load of money off this
And that’s great for her. Congratulations for making lots of money and having a job you love. (And I realise this may sound sarcastic, but it isn’t. It’s more of a sorry I-hate-your-freaking-book-so-much-but-I’m-sure-you’re-a-lovely-person reassurance.)
The Ending Paragraph was Pretty
I absolutely hated the ending, but the narration was nice, and you shall see it in the first quote. Sometimes Lauren Oliver’s writing style really bothered me, but damn she can write. She should really try poetry, I think she’d be good at that. Less characters to screw up, more pretty words to use.
And that’s where the pros end.
I have so many cons that I can’t think of any specific order to put them in, and I’m pretty sure I can’t cover anything, but I’m going to give it a go. If you want to have a real experience of these cons, you can just read the book (and maybe you won’t think they’re cons, but I sure did).
Never Blamed for Anything
Let us recap on the story of Lena:
She and her best friend meet this guy, and she falls in love with him. She decides to rebel against the society which she grew up in even though it’s going to have devastating, horrible consequences for everyone else who isn’t her. Her entire family and her best friend are shamed for simply knowing her, and she never has to suffer from her rash choices. She abandons everyone who loves her just for one guy she barely knows, and expects THEM to apologise to HER.
For example, later, she has a conversation to Hana about how Hana sold her out, and she slaps her best friend across the face. Her best friend keeps apologising like Lena is this saint who never did anything wrong and Hana is the one who did the bad thing. But Lena LEFT Hana on her own to get cured, because Lena knew how terrible the cure was and how horrible and that was her excuse for leaving, she decided to get her best friend turned into a walking zombie. She PLANTED A BOMB in Hana’s house and didn’t get slapped. She is actively working against Hana’s entire life and is never blamed. Hana decides not to kill Lenaand treats her nicely, yet Lena is the one who is seen as nice in this situation, even though she is freaking horrible in this scene. Does she not feel the slightest bit bad about leaving her best friend in this horrible society which she is so adamantly against? Nope, apparently not. Because Lena is a terrible person.
There is an innocent, injured, traumatised girl who’s entire family and everyone she ever knew has just been brutally murdered. And Lena sees her have one chat to her ex-boyfriend who she broke up with and she tries to convince Raven to abandon this girl, who is homeless and completely helpless and nearly died. And still we like this character? I do not understand.
Always gets her Happy Ending
Yes, you can argue that lots of people die and have horrible stuff happen to them, and that Lena is affected by this, but is she really? The horrible stuff happens to everyone else, not to her. What’s the worst injury she gets in that last battle? her ear bleeds. That’s it. Raven dies in like two freaking sentences. Dani dies, though no one gives a crap about her. Pike dies, but again no one cares.
Lena gets her mum, her favourite cousin, her best friend AND her boyfriend without having to confront her actual boyfriend. She goes through NO hard situations that any other characters have to get through. She gets the easiest ride in this entire situation, others get slaughtered and go into battle that we conveniently get glossed over every time.
You know what happens in most books that make us care for other characters? They go through hard things to see a light at the end. They hit rock bottom and drag themselves back up, showing us they are as strong and determined and making us admire them. But Lena? She drifts on by all the horrible stuff, has one emotional cry-fest that lasts a sentence for no apparent reason other than she doesn’t want to visit Portland even though they have no other choice and she’s being selfish, and yet we’re supposed to admire her? No. Wrong.
In my Pandemonium review, I said I wanted to see the transition between Lena in the “before” section, and in the “after” section, as they did not match up at all. Lena was still soft and pathetic in the “before” stories, but somehow cold and overly confident of herself in the “after” section, as though a few months had passed between these sections that we just hadn’t seen. Or the character development was incredibly stilted.
Lauren Oliver tried so hard to make Lena seem like a developed character to us readers. She made her shoot one gun, be present at a battle, save some girl’s life, like we’re supposed to think she’s essential to the rebellion, but Lena is nothing. Sure this character development would have made sense if the author was trying to show Lena still very vulnerable and weak, but no, Lena’s supposed to be a stone cold badass now, and she really wasn’t. For example:
Lena says, “I’ve lost things you can’t understand.”
That line is also used by the Doctor in Doctor Who, and let’s now see the difference between the usage of it (btw, I don’t know much about Doctor Who, since I’ve seen bits and pieces of it, but I know enough to know that Lena is talking crap).
The Doctor had to murder his entire race, including his family, his friends, and everyone he had ever loved. Over and over again he has watched people die for his cause, and yet he can do nothing to stop it, he just puts on a happy face and goes on helping people, even though he is constantly confronted by people who want to kill him, and spends his life saving planets that don’t know he exists. He has to watch his companions leave him over and over, and know each time that they’ll all die before he does.
Lena, on the other hand, ran away with her boyfriend, made friends with some rebels, and saw some people she barely knew, die.
The writing style is the type of soft, poetic writing riddled with too many similes and weird inner reflections. And I thought this airy, writing style worked for what the book was, which was a naive, uninteresting girl whose life is changed. But trying to make Lena cold and calculating with this writing style? They really don’t meld together at all.
No Interesting Personality Traits
You know those character forms you can get to plan an original character for your story? If you like writing, you have definitely heard of them, listing 50 different things you need to do to explore your character and really get to know them. If you tried filling one in for Lena, just for the things mentioned in this book, not the previous ones where she literally tells you what she likes and dislikes, I bet you most of it would be a blank piece of nothing. She has no character. She has nothing that defines her in any way.
Actually, no, let’s change that, she has two characteristics. She is naive and selfish as crap.
Her Relationship with Julian
You are now a guy with the best life ever, you have rich parents and you’re incredibly handsome. You get kidnapped. Sucks, right? But who cares, there’s this really hot girl stuck with you. You fall head over freaking heels in love with her, and you look at her naked, and you’re so in love with her that you give up everything you believe in, everything that defines who you are, just to run away with her.
Then her ex-boyfriend comes back, and you’re mega jealous of the guy because your girlfriend is obviously super duper in love with him. She leaves one night and confesses her undying love to her ex, and he straight up turns her down, so she runs back to you crying, the rebound, who she only is with to spite her former boyfriend, and you don’t get mad at her.
You comfort her.
And apparently this is normal, because Lauren Oliver never says what Julian does is bad for him, since it really is, still accepting your girlfriend even when she would gladly run of with her ex in an eye blink. The only reason she is still with you is to make him jealous, and get make out sessions on the side, and she still expects you to love her, even though she treats you like crap.
And you take it. You let her because you have no personality whatsoever, which means you do as much as a welcome mat.
That’s a toxic relationship right there.
Everyone likes Lena
If you don’t like Lena you are a character that will soon die. Remember that deal with everyone saying Julian was not part of the group because he used to support the cure? Well Lena did too, but no one ever makes fun of her. But Lauren Oliver never gives the reader any indication that Lena has now integrated into the society, it’s just… there.
My favourite character was Raven, and I didn’t even like her. That shows how much I cared for anyone in this book. When Raven died, I felt nothing. Not even a smidgen of emotion when Tack holds her dead body and whispers into her ear. Because we never see their relationship. You’d think in a 400 paged book we’d see one mention of their relationship that wasn’t a few lines of Lena telling us what happened.
If you read the dialogue with no mention of who was saying what, then I dare to to find who was talking. All of them have the exact same voice. I would have preferred clichés by this point, even though I really do hate clichés, but I prefer them over blank character slates. Pick a character from random and fill in one of those character forms. I dare you. See if you can get passed the first few lines.
Another way I found I could never empathise with these characters is that we are never shown the extent of their personality. We only see what they’re like when they’re annoyed (they all just say sh*t a lot, sometimes f*ck) or when they’re planning a plan (they’re all boring). We don’t see them in pure euphoria, sadness or anger. And if they have a spat, it is glossed over by a few lines of narration, instead of actually seeing the scene play out.
Lena’s big outbreak of emotion? A page. If you don’t count her making up with her mother. If you’re going to have your character breakdown, I want a chapter of it. I want to see it fully formed, because it is an important part of a story. But we are given no details of this breakdown other than a standard description of crying, which just sounds like what any crying feels like.
And the rest of the tension is no better. Pippa’s gang getting slaughtered? Recounted on it later. The bomb going off? Just mention it later. All the interactions were calm conversations with “tension”, and by that I mean “intense” glances and melodramatic statements.
The Love Triangle
I did not give two craps about the love triangle.
1. I did not care about any of the characters with blank personalities.
2. I did not care about any of the relationships because they were both initiated and carried out so badly that neither of them seemed like love. They seemed like creepy coaxing of naive people who didn’t know anything about love, and made me feel really uncomfortable. For example, Lena at the start was this naive girl following anything anyone told her about the society, meets Alex, he lures her into the world and because of her innocence and naivety, she believes him. And the exact same thing happens between Lena and Julian.
3. There was nothing compelling about the love triangle as it is very obvious that Lena likes Alex, and is only using Julian as a rebound. However we are somehow meant to feel conflict.
4. I hate love triangles with an absolute passion.
5. I did not understand why either of the guys actually liked Lena.
6. It seemed more like a plot device for one of the dullest books I’ve ever read, than for actual character development, as, you know, none of these characters actually develop.
7. Julian’s only purpose is to be part of the love triangle. Does he do anything else of importance? No. Which makes him a pretty worthless character.
Plot & Setting
One of the reasons I gave both Delirium and Pandemonium much higher ratings than this book will ever achieve, is because they were middle books. They had potential to grow. This world had potential to explode into awesome, as we have learned in every last book of a dystopian series, there is always some sort of war or battle at the end. And who knows, this battle between good and evil could have been epic.
It did not live up to my low expectations.
The main reason it seemed so pathetic to me is probably because I was not paying very much attention as I was so damn bored. But I don’t think they defeated the society. I can’t even remember the ending; what was going on or why they were taking a wall down. And they barely finished it. They barely said anything about what was actually happening because Lena saw Hana instead.
Another problem is that Lauren Oliver never takes advantage to show us anything that’s happening in this world, or the extent of this world. The problem with first person perspective is that we miss a large chunk of world building, however when Hana’s voice was introduced, I became interested in seeing more of the world. But of course Hana’s cure did not work and so we never get to see what it’s actually like to be cured, or what’s so bad about it. I really don’t see what’s so bad about getting paired up and cured, as Lauren Oliver constantly tells us it’s bad without ever showing us. We never see how bad the Wilds is, because Lena spends a lot more time talking about her love problems instead of the hardships. We never see any happy moments between them, no comradeship or friendship between any of these characters to give the Wilds any sort of personality.
And quite honestly, there were so many potential plot points that could have been so much better, and so easy to do, for example:
From Hana’s perspective, either make her cured or show people that have been cured with bad effects. Everyone that’s been cured seems pretty happy, whereas in the wilds everyone is really angsty.
Give Hana a better match. I’ve always preferred shades of grey (around fifty of them ;)) to black and white storytelling. The Wilds was good, and the Cure was bad. If we’d seen the cure actually in action, rather than the extreme of bad which was Hana’s situation, then we could have seen that even when Hana had the perfect life, the Cure was still faulted. Giving Hana the worst pairing possible gave the idea that in a good pairing, the Cure was awesome and everything went well.
When Cassandra was mentioned, I was convinced that she was going to be Raven (btw, I have not read the Raven short story, which is probably why). It would have been a good connection to make Hana find Lena and to get to know Raven’s backstory and why Raven got chosen to lead even though she’s so young. I suppose this was all covered in the short story, but as I hadn’t read it, I never felt a conclusion to Raven’s story through just the books alone. And I don’t think we should have to read companion books to feel the series is complete.
Even in a small scene, like Hana faking her ID with a photocopy, why does everything go smoothly? Storytelling grabs tension when something goes wrong, as iterated by the Dark Knight. People don’t panic when something goes according to plan, no matter how bad the plan is; if something goes wrong, if there’s chaos, that’s when people freak out. Get someone to squint closer at the picture, and Hana to leg it out of there. Get someone to recognise her going into crypts. Get Cassandra not to conveniently give all the answers.
In an ending, I expect the author to wrap up all the loose ends, answer all the questions, and leave the characters at a summarised ending and reaching a conclusion where all the relationships are defined and their future is obvious. I know some people prefer open endings, but I absolutely hate them. The story never feels complete without a proper conclusion.
This is the laziest ending I’ve ever read. It didn’t even answer the love triangle, which was, unfortunately, the main focal point of the entire book. We don’t know if Lena survives. The next line could easily and realistically be: “And then I am shot in the head.” And now we’ll never know. This book really needed an epilogue, just to get a final resolution.
There’s probably some sort of conclusion in some short story somewhere, but I have no inclination or desire to read it. I am done with this series. I am finished and happy about it.
Quotes (because, admittedly, they’re really pretty. Even though the writing style completely uprooted the tone, they are definitely much better without the plot dragging them down)
- “Take down the walls.
That is, after all, the whole point.
You do not know what will happen if you take down the walls; you cannot see through to the other side, don’t know whether it will bring freedom or ruin, resolution or chaos. It might be paradise or destruction.
Take down the walls.
Otherwise you must live closely, in fear, building barricades against the unknown, saying prayers against the darkness, speaking verse of terror and tightness.
Otherwise you may never know hell; but you will not find heaven, either. You will not know fresh air and flying.
All of you, wherever you are: in your spiny cities, or your one bump towns. Find it, the hard stuff, the links of metal and chink, the fragments of stone filling you stomach.
And pull, and pull, and pull.
I will make a pact with you: I will do it if you will do it, always and forever.
Take down the walls.”
- “This is what amazes me: that people are new every day. That they are never the same. You must always invent them, and they must always invent themselves, too.”
- “Of course. That’s what people do in a disordered world, a world of freedom and choice: they leave when they want. They disappear, they come back, they leave again. And you are left to pick up the pieces on your own.”
- “This is the past: It drifts, it gathers. If you are not careful, it will bury you.”
The aspects of Delirium and Pandemonium that I liked, I now disliked in Requiem. Lauren Oliver’s writing style, while pretty in short bursts, really needs to be used sparingly. The onslaught of this narration really is not suited to the third book of a dystopian trilogy, one that was intended to have action and suspense, but fell flat on it’s face. The characters were completely unlikeable, the setting was never fully fleshed out, and the plot was downright bad.
I think Lauren Oliver should stick to contemporary novels, or poetry. I think if she wrote light, romantic fluff with some philosophical reflection I would enjoy it a whole lot more than an attempt at action and adventure that fails at being interesting. (side note: I do own “Before I Fall”, which is supposed to be a whole lot better than Delirium, so we’ll see.)
It took me two weeks to read this, when usually a book takes a day or two. And I’ve been lazing around for the last two weeks, procrastinating from any work, and with practically no commitments. I could have flew through this book, but I consistently put it off.
Rating: 1 shuriken star. Read it if you… I don’t know, read it if you think you’d still enjoy it after seeing this review in which I spoilt the entire book for you. Don’t read it if you don’t want to. I don’t know. Do whatever you want. Just don’t blame me for the cause.