Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I guess I’ll start with a recap before I begin my review. I’m a huge Lauren Oliver fan. Not because I’ve read all of her books, (actually, maybe I have), but because of the incredible impact reading just one of her books had on me. I loved her debut novel BEFORE I FALL. That led me to read the first installment in a series called DELIRIUM. I enjoyed the book, the writing was strong as expected, but it didn’t knock my socks off, and that’s ok. It was good enough to warrant reading its sequel, which is more than I do for most series. I had a feeling things were just getting warmed up, and I was correct.
PANDEMONIUM is a fantastic sequel. Lena, who escaped from a dystopian society where teens have love lobotomized out of their brains, is living in the Wilds and adapting to her new life. The Invalid, or ‘Uncured’ boy whom she’d fallen in love with and convinced her to escape died at the end of DELIRIUM, or so we were led to believe. In books, I always require a Ferris Bueller level of evidence that a character is dead before I believe it. Just roll dead grandma’s old bones into Ed Rooney’s office and I’ll give you an excused absence for going to the funeral. So, my belief that Alex was really dead quickly became fear that he might not be, because he was the part of the first book I liked least. Once his death, or body as it were, appeared to be pretty much in the bag, I relaxed and realized we were going to need another love interest. Enter Julian Fineman, a fine man indeed, and a wonderful opposites-attract-challenge for our Lena. I was more interested in Julian in the first few lines than I ever was in Alex.
So the story of Lena adapting to the Wilds was wonderful then we start into a ‘now’ and ‘then’ chapter progression, which usually causes me to want to skip ahead to one or the other; however, the stories in both timelines were equally compelling and kept me riveted until they merged into now.
There were great twists, fantastic action sequences, and a great progression of the romance. Some of the dystopian series can start to feel a little familiar, and this one has shades of HUNGER GAMES in it, but at it’s heart is the fascinating question of ‘How important is love and your freedom to love?’ Those are pretty big stakes and help to elevate this series above some of the others. The book ends in a satisfying way, even if the last word did confirm my fears from the beginning of the novel. By the time I got to that point, though, I knew that’s how it had to be. Lauren held my hand through three hundred and seventy-four pages and didn’t drop the bomb on me until I was ready.
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