Imagine a future when love is classified as a disease by the government. Deemed too dangerous to allow people to suffer the devastating effects of amor deliria nervosa, all eighteen-year-olds are required to undergo a surgical procedure to “cure” the condition. Each teen is evaluated prior to their surgery to determine their future place in society. Any hint that a teen is unstable or infected with the deliria results in immediate and severe consequences.
All people are subject to arranged marriages with pre-approved selections provided by the government, and one’s education, occupation, family size and socioeconomic status are all determined for you. This is the premise of Lauren Oliver’s novel about a dystopian future America.
Delirium, the first book of the Delirium series, follows eighteen-year-old Lena during the months leading up to when she is to undergo the procedure for the cure. This novel is set in a dystopian future, a theme in teen fiction that has enjoyed a surge in popularity after the success of the Hunger Games trilogy. Yet, Lena’s world is turned upside down when she meets a boy named Alex and falls in love with him.
While the love story between Lena and Alex is certainly the main narrative of Delirium, other important themes of identity, secrets, and truth are recurrent throughout the story. Lena and Alex’s romance is a forbidden love; Alex is not one of Lena’s approved matches, and Lena is not permitted to associate with boys in a romantic fashion, because she is uncured and unmarried. Their relationship becomes one of the many secrets Lena keeps. Several of the other characters of this story are also keeping secrets: Hana, Lena’s best friend, is going to illegal parties; the government hides the truth about the nation’s history and the invalids living in the Wilds; and even Alex hides critical details about his identity and his past. Lena finds it difficult to understand her world once these secrets start coming to light.
Delirium will appeal to readers for a variety of reasons. Romantics will enjoy the forbidden first love that Lena experiences with Alex. Readers who enjoy action will like the daring crossings Alex and Lena make into the Wilds, and the near misses with the Regulators. This novel also examines enduring friendships, political intrigue, government oppression, and dysfunctional family dynamics. All these elements combine to make Delirium an exciting summertime read.