"PANDEMONIUM," by Lauren Oliver, HarperCollins, $17.99, 375 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)
In “Delirium,” the first book of Lauren Oliver's dystopian trilogy, 17-year-old Lena Haloway is awaiting the “cure” mandated by the government that makes a person immune to amor deliria nervosa, the disease of passion and love. In this neutralized condition, love, hate, violence and pain — all dissension — is eradicated. Lena has always looked forward to this day because then she’ll be safe. “After the procedure, I will be happy and safe forever.”
But days before her “cure,” she does the unthinkable, she falls in love with Alex, a young man born in the Wilds (the area bombed out by the government) who pretends to have been “cured” in order to work for the resistance movement. Together, they plan an escape to the Wilds but are detected at the border, where Alex is shot and sacrifices himself for Lena’s safe escape.
“Pandemonium” takes up immediately as Lena crosses the electric-fenced border. She is met by “Invalids,” those who have resisted the “cure” and escaped the ascetically-controlled city. Chapters alternate between “then” (Lena’s adjustment to the hardships of the Wilds) and “now” as she becomes an undercover resistance fighter of the DFA (Delirium Free Association) in New York City. The action lives up to the title — "Pandemonium" — through intensity and breath-taking action, mysterious underground battles where revolution is about to ignite.
Unexpected plot twists exist as Lena, still longing for Alex, evolves into a bold resistance fighter while secretly pretending to be a believer of the DFA. There she meets Julian, the “poster-boy” son of the rich head of the organization, and an alliance between them begins when they are both kidnapped. Even though Lena is ideologically opposed to him, they are thrust into a beginning relationship. In true Oliver style, a cliffhanger leaves the story stranded as Lena sees an irrevocable change in her life.
While “Pandemonium” stands alone as a novel (Oliver gives adequate cues to bridge the two books), the full impact of the story will best be felt by reading both books. “Delirium” is the story of seeking safety and conformity while “Pandemonium” is one of dedicated defiance.
The major themes of both books lean toward the scientific impact of altering one’s emotional and spiritual well-being. After all, the government claims a life without love is a painless life; one of safety with measurable predictability. One need not even select a mate; it’s done for you. Happiness is assured.
Oliver’s brilliant prose blends scenes of breathtaking pace with beautiful in-depth description. The critically layered developments elevate the story to a fierce climax. She offers a variety of hard-edged characters whose lives are directed by forces rather than their own, such as the Invalids, the “uncured” who want to take away the government rules and get rid of the “cure,” and the Scavengers, those who take down everything, burn everything to dust, steal and slaughter and set the world aflame.
But it is the portrayal of two diverse worlds, the vapid government-controlled city environment and the burned-out Wilds that showcase the talents of this author.
"Pandemonium" is darker than "Delirium" and also includes more conspiracies and subversive groups, and the violence is more implied than graphically described.
“Delirium” and “Pandemonium” will appeal to fans who crave spiking action and seek similar plots found in “The Hunger Games,” “Ashes, Ashes” and “Matched,” where governments and familial discretions intercede in young lives.
The third in the Delirium Trilogy, “Requiem,” will be published in 2013.