DELIRIUM (Delirium #1)
Available February 1st
Received from publisher via NetGalley
I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.
Well, the government is certainly going to try. Love is a disease. Something to be feared for its ability to cause extreme emotional reactions that inhibit a productive and healthy lifestyle. Love needs to be eradicated, and so there is the cure. At eighteen, everyone is evaluated and undergoes a procedure to remove the part of the brain responsible for love, resulting in a more stable individual who will take their place in a strong and flourishing society.
Lena is counting the days until her cure. Counting the days until she'll be free of emotion and can live a normal life with the man to whom she's matched, and will no longer be haunted by memories of a mother who laughed, danced, and defied all of society by loving her husband. Just a couple more months and she'll be safe.
On the day of her evaluation, several weeks prior to her eighteenth birthday, Lena catches a brief glimpse of young boy, laughing as he's watching the chaos resulting from a demonstration by Invalids, a group of people who refuse the cure and live outside city walls in the Wilds. Not long after, Lena runs into this young boy again, Alex he says his name is, and finds herself in the position she fears most: falling in love. How quickly her life changes. Instead of welcoming the cure, it's now the thing she dreads most for it will take from her her feelings for Alex, the boy who has changed everything.
Delirium is a story that flawlessly elicits from us the very emotions denied its characters, one that forces all our feelings to the surface so our pain and fear for Lena and Alex are etched across our features as we furrow our brows, bite our lips, and fidget uncomfortably in nervous anticipation. We proudly wear these outward markers which so irrefutably illustrate the level of our entanglement in the story, and glory in our emotive displays, thankful we can express our reactions freely while the characters to whom we eventually become so thoroughly connected must suppress them as a survival mechanism. We must breathe through a rapidly escalating anger and resentment at the rules and regulations strangling Lena's world, watching as strong and intelligent characters have the cure forced upon them but go down in a blaze of emotional glory, only to rise from the ashes cold and collected – phoenixes stripped of the colorful feathers and vibrant heart that made them pulse with life.
Lena has an exceptional inner fortitude, and as much as she tries to convince herself the cure is everything she wants out of life, her independent mind refuses to be cajoled by her half-hearted beliefs, and instead thrives with a latent defiance that surfaces at the most dangerous of times. The camaraderie with Lena does not form instantaneously however, as her overwhelming fear of sharing her mother's fate combined with her refusal to acknowledge her sympathies for the resistance keep us at an unfortunate distance. Once Alex manages to shatter the illusions to which she so desperately clings, the floodgates open and we are swept away in a glorious maelstrom of pent-up frustration, anger, and the most potent of all, love. This one little word in the context of this world has more significance and power than volumes of text, and when those eight letters, three words, and one meaning finally break the society-imposed silence and slide their way past Lena's lips, we can't help but mouth them along with her: I love you.
Though the relationship between Alex and Lena is a bit slow in developing, their interactions not truly beginning until almost halfway through the book, it is certainly one worth waiting for. One that represents so much more than an idle attraction or passing fancy, and one that causes our breath hitch as we know their journey will not be one marked by simple laughter, meaningful touches, or carefree smiles; but rather will be plagued by logistical difficulties, tormented by unimaginable repercussions should they be caught, and perhaps even destroyed by the very love which provides them so much happiness. With each whispered sentiment and sidelong glance, we find ourselves hunched closer to the pages in the hope physical proximity will allow us to better catch any subtle nuance in their fragile yet exceedingly resolute connection, fully understanding we have become so desperately attached to them we cannot tear ourselves from their embrace.
The only slight imperfection in an absolutely beautiful story is the presence of several extraneous anecdotes from a past time and place that highlight an emotion similar to the one Lena is experiencing presently, perhaps meant to reinforce the strength of the current feeling, but it takes us away from events in which we very much want to stay immersed. Overall however, Delirium is a story where the encouragement of emotional vacancy has the opposite effect on us as readers, our capacity to feel strengthening with every page until we are full to bursting, and we reach an end where the only outlet for release is to let the tears flow freely down our cheeks as we praise the beauty and pain of being in love.