Book Review: Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver

February 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

WARNING: This is the second of a series, so if you haven’t read Delirium yet, you should probably go read that instead of this review.

Lena did the impossible: she survived. She made it out of Portland, away from the cure and the expectations and the empty life stretching before her, and into the Wilds and freedom. She made it- but Alex didn’t. Lena Haloway died in the flames with him, and a strange new creature has emerged in her place. In the unforgiving hardships of the Wilds and all the lays beyond, a new Lena will have to grow and stand tall, to find her place. Once, love was worth dying for. Now she’ll have to decide if love is worth fighting for.

I loved Delirium. Beyond the ability of words to express, I loved the first book. So much so I’m scared to reread it for fear I won’t love it as much the second time. And for fear that I’ll love it even more and I’m already incoherent about it. So I was a little scared coming into the second book. I didn’t want to expect too much of it, because any time I get myself too excited for a book, I get myself waaaaaay too hyped up.

And at first, as I read the first few chapters, I was a bit worried that I was right to be afraid.

Then I kept going and OH MY GOD.

It’s a little difficult to talk about this book because it would be so easy to give things away, and that would be criminal. It is, in every way, a worthy successor, more than just a middle book in a trilogy because it genuinely succeeds in growing.

What initially threw me off was this book passes back and forth between two timelines, each told in present tense. It’s not merely flashback- it wouldn’t be possible to separate the two halves of the book and reconfigure them into a more linear flow. Despite a separation of months between them, the two lines actually build upon each other, not just in the lessons learned that become lessons applied, but even in the word choice.

What carries me away more than anything- more than the characters, more than the story- is the actual writing. While the frequent lack of contractions in the narrative throws me sometimes, the imagery is so clear and precise that the words wrap around you from the page, simply envelop you. That it so ably combines poetry with coarseness is astonishing, but it does. In the broad sweep of just a few sentences we have the electric imagery of a city alive with light- and bird shit. And yet it all goes together. The image or metaphor that ends one chapter of a specific timeline is frequently what springs us into the next, in the other timeline. The lessons Lena forcibly learns in the previous timeline she’s forced to put into motion in the present timeline, and for all the separation of months, it feels seamless.

In the first book, we learned of how brittle the construct we call a person can be, how much of a shell exists- as well as the emotions that can be poured into that empty voice. Here, we learn the darker aspects of the soul. Where we learned of love as a product of the deliria, now we learn also of the flip side of passion: hatred. We learn fierceness, we learn strength. We learn of survival and the deep cost it bears, the scars it leaves. And over and over we’re given reinforcement of just how fragile we are, despite all our posturing or attempts to seem otherwise. We see the spines and prickles of attitude, we see the valiance and courage of protecting others- and we see what that kind of fierce survivalism can turn us into.

I’m not going to tell you anything of what actually happens- it’s really not possible to do that without giving away valauble, integral pieces. Pandemonium comes out 28 February 2012, just around the corner, so if you haven’t read Delirium yet, rush out and do it now. These books are not to be missed.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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1 Comment

  1. Lecea said,

    Thanks for the informative and spoiler-free review! It seems that some readers dislike the Now-Then structure, but I feel that it was creative on the author’s part.

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