Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

14 Apr

Book cover for Pandemonium by Lauren OliverTitle: Pandemonium

Author: Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium, book 2

Genre: Dystopian YA

Publisher: Harper

Release date: February 23, 2012

Source: Bought it

Summary: 

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
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.

So, I might as well start with a big SPOILER WARNING to all of you friends who haven’t read DELIRIUM yet. One, you won’t be able to read any further than this sentence without spoiling BIG THINGS that happen in that book. Two, READ IT ALREADY. It’s good!

Guys, when I read DELIRIUM last year, it just about killed me. Like, I got to the end and there were ugly sobs and I had my hideous crying face on. I was so attached to Lena and Alex and Hana that I FELT all the things and was devastated. Once I finished Lauren Oliver’s first book in the Delirium series, I worried myself silly over whether or not Alex really dies at the end there. And when I saw people reading PANDEMONIUM, book 2 in the series, and commenting on THE END and how they had to DISCUSS and FLAIL together, well, I was not heartened. Now that I’ve read PANDEMONIUM myself, I can totally understand what everyone was gushing about. Was this installment as engrossing and devastating and fraught as DELIRIUM was? Not to me, to be honest, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t devour it, love it, and make plans to steal a copy of REQUIEM as immediately as possible. Lauren Oliver wrote a solid second book, guys, and the story MOVES and things happen and it’s awesome. 

PANDEMONIUM starts off basically right at the end of DELIRIUM, with Lena running into the Wilds after Alex is shot at the fence. (SOB!) But then! The story does something really interesting that could have been annoying or made Lena’s story feel choppy and, thankfully, it didn’t: the chapters alternate between “then”–when Lena is living in the Wilds with a group of Invalids–and “now”–when Lena is living in what passes for NYC in Lauren Oliver’s world and is a part of the resistance against a group that wants to vaccinate kids earlier than usual to ramp up the fight against the Uncureds/Invalids. I liked this structure because it filled in all the gaps of the past while moving things forward in the future. 

Of course, “then” Lena is trying to grieve over Alex, whom she assumes is dead, while surviving in the woods with a ragtag bunch of people. “Now” Lena is getting involved in some trouble, and during the course of this, she meets Julian Fineman, hottie son of the vicious, slimy leader of the anti-deliria group. Julian is the kind of character who makes me hate myself a little bit. He’s a great guy: sweet, thoughtful, and he makes Lena so happy (although there is a HUGE BUT about their entire relationship as far as I’m concerned). Something about his personality seemed a little blah to me, but that could have been deliberate. He WAS the only son of a “Zombie,” the derogatory name the Invalids often use for the Cureds in the cities. But Julian is so inquisitive and genuine and NICE, it kind of breaks my heart that I didn’t get the same tingles from him that I got from Alex in DELIRIUM. He wasn’t Alex, and so I could never totally love him. But DANG! I wished I did. He is totally worth someone swooning over, and he had his moments for sure. But Alex left some big shoes to fill in the swoon department, and for me, Julian didn’t QUITE get there. 

In this same vein, something about PANDEMONIUM didn’t grab me emotionally in the same way DELIRIUM did. Maybe it was the structure, even though I enjoyed that aspect? Lena and Julian’s relationship doesn’t really take off until closer to the end, and their interactions at the beginning of their relationship aren’t based on attraction so much as they are based on mutual survival and the fact, simply, that they are together and alone and often cold and needing to sleep close together to keep warm. I never felt the swoons, or the passion or the LOVE like I felt between Lena and Alex. I didn’t really feel like the things Lena does for Julian came from love so much as they came from worry about a good friend and feeling responsible. But that’s just me. And I DO think that Lauren Oliver did a really great job continuing to tell her story here. I SWEAR. 

And if I’m being totally honest, I missed Hana, and even Grace. I never felt connected to any of the other characters in the same way that I felt connected to Hana and Lena’s friendship. Raven, the leader of Lena’s band of Invalids from the woods and a member of the resistance–I certainly empathized with her because her life has been SHITTY, but I didn’t always like her. I’m kind of torn about her even now. And honestly, I was a sobbing, heartbroken MESS after I read DELIRIUM. I didn’t even well up once while reading PANDEMONIUM. It’s a totally different kind of emotion that wasn’t as strong to me. In some ways, PANDEMONIUM definitely felt like the book that was setting up the end. Except it set up the end REALLY WELL. Great pace, major jeopardy, good atmosphere of bleakness. Until the last page (THE LAST PAGE!!!), the EMOTIONAL jeopardy wasn’t as heightened. 

But THE END IS BANANAS. Truth? I’d kind of convinced myself that the ending would be what it was after we learn of something that happens less than 50 pages into PANDEMONIUM. (To be clear, I’m not sure that the two things are actually connected, but in my mind they were, so….) So I wasn’t surprised as much. BUT I still LOST MY SHIZZ, and that in no way lessened my freak out about WHAT THE HELL is going to happen in REQUIEM. (Side note: that title gives me ALL THE ANXIETY. REQUIEM. As in DEATH, yes? STOP IT.) The end definitely puts our girl Lena in a tough spot, and I really felt bad for her because I have no idea how things are going to sort themselves out. I can’t think of a way that won’t result in something utterly heartbreaking. 

This is getting crazy long, so I’ll wrap it up by saying that I loved PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver. It was absolutely one of the better middle books in a series because nothing really stagnates. When I compare it and my reaction to DELIRIUM, though, I have to say that my reaction to that first book was more visceral and intense. PANDEMONIUM is not so flash-bangy UNTIL THE LAST PAGE. So, you know, I wasn’t really kidding about the stealing REQUIEM business. Who’s with me? 

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One Response to “Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver”

  1. elena April 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Aww, I’m totally into Julian but I can see why you weren’t. I’m a sucker for NICE and innately good guys so of course I fell head over heels for him. I’m so worried about Julian in the last book though, nice guys finishing last and all that. I really hope he still gets a happy ending, sigh. I loved how Lauren Oliver did the Then and Now too, I thought it was a clever way of moving the story along while catching the readers up. I actually liked Pandemonium better than Delirium, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Wonderful review!

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