Sunday 19 January 2014

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: Febuary 28th 2012
Pages: 384

Goodreads Synopsis:

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

If you have not read Delirium, this review will contain spoilers on the outcome of that book, so please bear that in mind.

I will speak a little about Delirium in this review and give a brief overview of the story in Delirium. These books are set in a dystopian world where love is considered a disease. At the age of 18, everyone receives  the "cure" - an operation that makes people immune to love. Prior to the age of 18, boys and girls are kept completely separated; only the cureds are allowed to intermingle. After the cure men and women are matched and expected to marry and pro-create. In Delirium, Lena cannot wait to receive the cure, she too sees love as a disease and at the beginning of the novel is completely brainwashed. In this first book in the series, I found Lena to be a hard character to connect with. She appears, at the beginning, to be a character who cannot think for herself, judgmental and completely closed-minded. However, as the story progresses Lena's character grows, in particular, due to her blossoming relationship with Alex. Although Lena opens her mind to ideas outside of what society has thought her, she still remains a rather weak and whiny character throughout Delirium. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ DELIRIUM AND PLAN TO. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. At the end of Delirium Lena escapes over the fence into the wilds, forced to leave Alex on the other side of the fence to face the authorities, it is not known whether he lives or dies.

Ugh, the end of the story killed me. I loved Alex as a character and now I was facing reading a story with the one thing I loved most about it missing. Did I hate Pandemonium because of this? The answer to that is a definite no, I, in fact, loved this book for several reasons.

What I will speak about first is Lena's incredible growth as a character. During the flashbacks Lena, at the beginning, is her usual pathetic, whiny self. She seems completely incapable of functioning without Alex - often hinting that she wouldn't care if she died. She appears weak at the beginning, weaker even then the character we saw in Delirium. Her time lost, alone in the wilds has mentally and physically drained her. This side to Lens does not last long and finally we have a strong female lead emerge in this series.

She is by far my favourite character in Pandemonium, in fact, the only character that I really enjoyed.  There were several characters Lena came across in the wilds, many of them simply padding characters, while there were other more important characters such as Raven and Tack who were not likable characters. They had tough outer shells, with bare glimpses of their feelings and neither character was wholly trustworthy. The character of Julian was also a character I found impossible to like. Delirium gave me the character of Alex but then unceremoniously took this character from me.  I found it very difficult to like Julian, not only because of the fact that he is not Alex, but also because he is not LIKE Alex. He is, in fact, the complete opposite. While Alex was strong and passionate, Julian is weak and misguided. Similar to Lena in Delirium Julian  is judgmental, closed minded and, worst of all, a really pathetic person. He is ignorant in the ways of the world just as Lena was, and, just as Alex helped Lena learn the truth, so too does Lena help Julian. Julian plays the role of the "damsel-in-distress" while Lena plays the hero role. I loved the role reversal here. Lena was previously the damsel-in-distress but has grown such much as a person that she is strong enough to be the hero or the knight in shining armour. Just like I didn't like Lena in Delirium I really didn't like Julian in Pandemonium.

The romance in the story, thankfully did not overwhelm the plot of the book. It was quite a believable romance, it was not overbearing and overtly emotional. This wasn't a story about insta-love and Lena's love of Alex is not completely forgotten.

Another aspect to the story that I enjoyed, was the flashbacks that I mentioned earlier. This way of telling the story - mixing the then of Lena's first appearance in the wilds and the now of around six months later - made me not want to put the book down. At the end of every chapter  you were left wanting to find out more. The plot was fast paced and action packed throughout. The writing style was also enjoyable, simple to read with some beautiful metaphors woven in here and there to spice up the narrative.

While I loved the characters in Delirium, like Alex and Hana, I loved the setting in Pandemonium, in particular, the wilds. The image that Oliver creates of the wilds was so vivid. While the wilds was a place of complete destruction, a place where towns were bombed and hundreds/thousands of people killed, it is still an area of beauty. The shells and foundations of old buildings remain with nature growing over and through them to create a peaceful, beautiful and quiet setting.

Another aspect I really loved about this book was its thought-provoking moments. Yes, you heard me right, A YA dystopian story which makes you think. I loved how contemporary issues such as the treatment of homosexuals and people with disabilities was incorporated into the story. There was a particular quote in Pandemonium that stood out for me: "For a society to be healthy, not a single one of its members may be sick". This quote reminded me of a Nazi society, an overbearing, government controlled society where there is no love. The sick people in this series are not just those with Deliria but also those with disablities and those who are homosexual. In Pandemonium's society people who are gay are referred to as "Unnaturals" and being gay is actual illegal, while people with disabilities are hidden from society or killed. Oliver clearly abhors this treatment and I enjoyed the fact that she tackled this issue and even featured a gay relationship with Hunter and Bram. Stories incorporating homosexual relationships are incredibly rare and even though the issue is merely touched on in Pandemonium, I am glad that it has a part to play in the story.

The plot twist, while totally predictable, was incredibly enjoyable. While I knew it would happen, I didn't know how. The last page of the book left me screaming at the book with excitement. I really like where the story went, well I would have much preferred if Julian was replaced with Alex,  but it made the plot more exciting and I now can't wait to read the next book and find out how it all turns out.

I really loved Delirium, probably only due to Alex while I loved Pandemonium because of the setting, the flashbacks, the plot and the strong female lead character. I gave Delirium 4 stars for Alex, I give Pandemonium 4 stars for a well-written, exciting story.

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