It's tough out there for the heroines of dystopian YA novels. If you're not being forced to fight to the death for the viewing pleasure of the masses, you're due to get the equivalent of a lobotomy on your 18th birthday to make sure you never suffer feelings of love - which is where we find Lena, heroine of Delirium.
Set in a future version of Portland, in an America where love has been classified as a dangerous disease (‘cuz sometimes love hurts, y’know) and its symptoms eradicated by cutting into people's brains at the onset of adulthood, Lena is eagerly counting down the days until her procedure in the hopes of avoiding the same fate as her mother, who was unsuccessfully operated on four times prior to her death. This being a YA novel, the inevitable soon happens when Lena meets someone who makes her heart go pitter-patter and starts to realise that a life without love isn't worth living. Now she's faced with a choice - live a life devoid of all feeling or escape to the Wilds, which the fellow Invalids who've managed to escape lobotomisation or incarceration now call home.
I both enjoyed and was slightly nonplussed by this book - a world in which love is taboo was a fresh premise to me and I thought its execution nearly worked, but not quite enough to stop me from picking many nits. Aside from wondering how exactly you would go about isolating a specific emotion to be cut away from the brain, I didn't entirely buy why the procedure had to wait until near adulthood (it seems it's because of....erm, reasons) and I had to wonder what kind of scenario would see the entire population willing to give up on such a fundamental human emotion and settling for a numb and pointless existence instead, as well as wondering about the effects that would have on human society. While the continuance of marriage and procreation was explained, with them now viewed as a duty rather than a pleasure, I would have liked to have seen more on the effects of a lack of love that wasn't of the romantic kind. There are nods to this, as crying children go without comfort, but I had to wonder how a lack of any parental love and affection hadn't managed to produce generations of screwed-up, maladjusted children.
I did enjoy Oliver's writing style and applaud her decision to go where she did with the climax but I think her world must have rubbed off on me a little as, while I liked this, I didn't love it.