***Note: this review assumes that you've read the book.***
Forgive me for being too frank, but Delirium has a ridiculous premise. Just inescapably ridiculous. I spent the whole novel trying to get myself to suspend disbelief, and failing.
The world-building had so many internal inconsistencies, each one chipped away at whatever remaining willingness I had to be transported:
- The guard in Ward 6 talking about the successful escape of a prisoner and the factual existence of invalids in front of an uncured girl (things that are hidden from the general population)?
- A police state where teenagers can sneak out of the house after curfew night after night? Or let's just focus on Lena's very overprotective family--these people could never have a teenager leave the house every night and not know it. Jenny slept in her room and was a tattle-tale, after all. Is it believable that they never once called Hana's house to check on Lena?
- And how about the existence of a procedure that takes away love and maternal feelings and the bonds of friendship, but still allows regulators to be cruel and crush skulls with batons?
- What about the moment in our supposed history when the procedure was invented (but not perfected) and people clamored to have it done "to get peace." Is that supposed to be the real story, or the one fed to the masses?
- A maximum-security solitary-confinement ward where they allow the prisoner to keep a dagger-shaped necklace in her cell? Really?
I can see that the premise is a metaphorical choice rather than a practical one, but it's so flawed it's too distracting to even appreciate the metaphor. As my reading buddy said, "The idea of love being a disease is not bad in and of itself, but I think it lends itself more towards humor or satire than such a crushingly serious dystopia."
Finally, the chaste kissing, and endless proclamations of love, and waxing on about the beauty of the world now that Lena knows love--with absolutely NO nod to normal teenage lust--was just too mass-market a choice for the volatile issues (totalitarian control, freedom to choose, sexual liberty) that are raised by the premise.
Delirium is one of those YA novels that garnered a lot of attention, massive book sales, and an option for a television series. But while it's beautifully "hooky," it just doesn't put our best YA foot forward. Someone make a show about Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series instead, please.