I've sat on this a few days. I really wanted to process my feelings before delving into a review. And I haven't picked up another book in the meantime. I mean, dang it! Lauren Oliver has left me with such a hangover that I don't even know what I want to read now.Before I go on, I want to say that I will make this spoiler free for the third book only. There will be spoilers from Delirium and Pandemonium, seeing as how I couldn't talk about much at all without them. :)
So let's recap: Lena lives in a society where love is seen as a disease. It corrupts and destroys. It hinders and hurts. Therefore, every citizen at the ripe age of 18ish has to undergo a procedure, The Cure, where they will no longer have such feelings. Before she is cured, though, Lena meets Alex. And falls in love. So in love that she risks everything to escape to the Wilds (the lands outside the border walls inhabited by "Invalids", those who have not been cured) with him. Unfortunately, only she makes it over the wall and the last she sees of Alex is a swarm of Regulators engulfing him as she escapes and he distracts them so she can go free. Moving onto Pandemonium, Lena is in the Wilds, learning to live a completely different life and learning what the resistance is all about. She is forced into a situation where she is kidnapped with Julian, the poster boy for the Deliria-Free America, and held captive in the Underground. I don't want to give it all away, but needless to say he ends up on the side of the resistance, for the freedom to choose whether or not to love. After he and Lena save one another, in more ways than one, Alex shows up. OF COURSE!
Okay. So that's the bare bones of the first two. Let me start with the love interests, here. As you can imagine, the re-emergence of Alex doesn't bode well for Lena and Julian's new-found relationship. There's a lot of tension. Not just between Alex and Lena, but between all three of them. Alex is angry, hurt, and hateful toward Lena. Here he shows up after escaping The Crypts and she is promising to be with Julian? Understandable. I was a bit annoyed with how easily Lena seemed to give up and turn one from one boy to another. But it worked well, I think, because with the freedom of choice also comes the pain of choice. The pain of words spoken or not spoken. The pain of people changing. So it worked well for the story, I think, I just didn't like it.
Oh my goodness, the writing. I will love Lauren Oliver forever for it. She doesn't just say things. She makes you feel them, and want to feel them again. Everything that happened I felt I was there, breathing it, touching it, experiencing it. Oliver says things in such beautiful way, too, that it just flows.
"Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it. But we have chosen a different road. And in the end that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose. We are even free to choose the wrong thing."
"How can someone have the power to shatter you to dust - and also to make you feel so whole?"
I loved that she did the Lena vs Hana perspective. It gave us a chance to see the Cured vs Uncured. How did the Cure really change someone? What was life like after? And my goodness, seeing Hana struggle with convention was refreshing, and she finally ended with a redeeming act that allowed me to forgive her her transgressions. I really think I held more of a grudge than Lena herself did. It was amazing to me how easy Lauren Oliver made it to see the upside of the Cure. How easy and less messy life could be with it. But at the same time she made such an argument to stop the Cure. Life shouldn't be that pristine. (I bet she'd be great at debates...)
The ending. Or, to some, the ending that wasn't an ending. Or, to others, the ending that left them wanting. Personally, the more I think about it, the more I like it. The entire time I was reading it was like a balloon was being blown up and I kept waiting for it to explode. It never really did that. But that's okay. It's still hanging there, with all the other balloons from all the other cities where the resistance is attacking, and they'll all pop eventually. It's not about the war or the revolt, but about the journey to get there, to taking down the walls that separate people and breaking the barriers. Nothing is tied up neatly with a red bow nor is everything resolved, but it's ready to be. We may not get to see it, but we know it.