Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Genre: Teen, Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for the first book in the trilogy, Delirium.
Lena has escaped from the confines of her rigid society, one where love is banned and excised through a procedure, and joined with the Resistance. Still mourning the death of her beloved, Alex, she attempts to adjust to her new way of life. But Lena can’t help but think about what she left behind and wonder if the price she has paid is too high, especially when confronted with some of the Resistance’s darker methods.
Pandemonium is the second novel in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, and it certainly thrusts the reader right into the story. There is almost no introduction to the novel or review of what happened in the previous book. Oliver expects her readers to be up to speed and plunges right into the action. While this is great for a reader very familiar with the first novel in the series, I’ll admit I was a bit confused. It had been over a year since I’d read Delirium and it took me awhile to remember what had happened. As a result, I recommend a serious refresher or reread of that novel before starting this one. If you haven’t read Delirium, I wouldn’t even consider picking this book up until you’ve read that one.
The novel is told in two time periods; one, in which Lena has just escaped from her oppressive society, and the other in the future, when Lena is back in that society, undercover and part of the Resistance. The length of time between these two and how Lena got from one situation to the other is unclear for awhile; readers must trust Oliver to guide them, and if they do, they will be rewarded. She does an excellent job keeping up the suspense, though sometimes readers might wonder where in the world the book is headed.
Oliver presents readers with a new, hardened Lena in Pandemonium. She’s recognizable, but she’s not the same Lena readers grew to knew and love. The character transformation is simply fascinating, especially as readers discover what led to it. I wouldn’t say the book is predictable, but when there’s a twist coming, readers can sense what direction Oliver will take the reader next. Surprisingly, this doesn’t take away from the reading experience; it’s what happens along the way, rather than the big changes in the storyline, that makes up what is great about this novel.
I will mention one issue that continually occurred to me during Pandemonium, something which bothered me, but was not at all the fault of the author. It struck me that Lena used the word “love” a little too freely, that I had trouble believing her when she used it. I was going to criticize the book for playing into the teenage romance angst that so turns me off in other stories, until I thought about it more fully. In this world, there is no love, so how would Lena know when she’s in love with someone? Butterflies in the stomach? Tingling at a touch? We all know this isn’t love, but how does Lena know that? I found this to be a fascinating issue that I kept thinking about over the course of the novel.
Pandemonium sets up an exciting conclusion for the Delirium trilogy. Readers can likely predict the big twist at the end of the novel before they even pick it up, but it’s still explosive and exciting. Oliver is a very talented author, and I’m constantly surprised by her creativity, especially considering how different this book is from its prequel. She’s become an author that I will take leaps of faith on and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Other books by Lauren Oliver: